2024 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Oliver Hauser, University of Exeter Business School


Oliver Hauser
University of Exeter Business School

“Oliver is the rare academic professor with such deep and meaningful insight into the world of practice that the students in his classroom actually feel like they are in the middle of real-world situations. He knows how to bring cases, theory, and frameworks to life in realistic ways that students deeply appreciate (which also result in more applicable learning for them). I have seen Oliver in action firsthand and he shines in engaging a wide breadth and diversity of voices in class discussions while steering the room toward the relevant learning goals. Not to mention, Oliver is a first-rate contributor to the school, serving as the interim Co-Director of the Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at Exeter. He has also secured (and actively manages) exceptionally large research grants, including the UK BIG IDEAs project, focused on testing interventions to promote equality in the workplace through randomized controlled trials.” – Siri Chilazi, Researcher, Harvard University

Oliver Hauser, 35, is a Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics and interim Co-Director of the Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Exeter Business School. He is Faculty Affiliate at Harvard University’s Sustainability, Transparency and Accountability Research Initiative.

His research focuses on inequality and cooperation in organizations, society, and the environment.

Hauser is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, leading an ambitious seven-year project entitled “BIG IDEAs: Using Randomised Controlled Trials to Reduce Bias in the Workplace,” and a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute. At Exeter, he is a faculty member of the Centre for Leadership and a member of the College Inclusivity Group and of the Sustainability Team.

He serves as academic advisor to MoreThanNow, a UK-based behavioral consultancy; an advisory board member at MeVitae, an equitable recruiting company; and an academic associate of the Behavioral Insights Team (“Nudge Unit”).

Previously, Hauser taught and researched at the Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Extension School. He also held Research Fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program and the Harvard Behavioral Insights Group.

His research has been published in leading academic journals such as Nature, PNAS, Nature Human Behaviour, Nature Communications, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, The Leadership Quarterly, and Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization as well as practitioners’ outlets such as the Harvard Business Review. It has been covered by popular news outlets such as the Boston Globe and Huffington Post.

He is winner of the Pacific Standard’s “30 Top Thinkers Under 30” award, the Wharton People Analytics research competition prize, the Harvard University Richard J. Herrnstein Dissertation Prize, the Harvard John Parker Award, and several certificates of distinction in Teaching.


At current institution since what year? 2018
Education: Ph.D. in Biology, 2016, Harvard University
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Behavioral Economics


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I first happened to stumble across a fascinating paper on inequality (mis)perceptions by Michael Norton: Mike is a professor at Harvard Business School and, since HBS was only a short walk from Harvard’s main campus, I reached out and asked to meet with him. Aside from being incredibly approachable and friendly, Mike also completely overturned my expectations of what a business school professor does: I had always thought of business school professors primarily studying topics like accounting or international business, but here was a business school professor who cared deeply about social and economic issues to make the world a fairer place.

And not just that: being in a business school meant Mike and his colleagues at HBS had unparalleled access to leaders of real-world organizations and governments where this research could make a significant difference to people’s lives. This potential for impact for the public good immediately appealed to me and I have been fortunate enough, over the years, to experience the full range of enriching experiences that can lead to such transformative change and impact, from teaching MBA and executives to researching and advising the world’s most impactful organizations.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I have always had a wide range of research interests: I currently work on understanding the evolution and institutions of cooperation (which was also what my PhD was focused on) as well as on reducing poverty and inequality in society and the workplace, alongside methodological advances in research (such as field experiments and AI).

To give some examples, my most significant achievements in the field of cooperation have been a set of papers that demonstrate the power of institutions on promoting cooperation towards future generations (Hauser et al. Nature 2014), and explore the role of inequality on cooperation (Hauser et al. Nature 2019). This work has garnered lots of policy and academic interest, and it has also led to fascinating follow-up work (in partnership with Deepmind) on leveraging AI to help us design more effective institutions for cooperation.

When it comes to studying poverty, in partnership with a large US charity, we distributed unconditional cash transfers to low-income households in a series of large-scale studies: while we find that cash helps to address some (objective) needs of those families, this study also reveals a more complex and nuanced relationship for these families between receiving some money but also realizing they still don’t have enough to address all their needs, which may potentially reduce their well-being.

Finally, some positive news from my ongoing work on improving gender equality in the workplace is that diversity trainings can be made to work: many people will know by now that diversity (or unconscious bias) trainings have a bad record of actually changing behaviour. However, in ongoing work with a large technology company, after co-creating a new short, timely diversity training targeted at hiring managers just before they were going to make a hiring decision, we find that these new hires are more diverse—both in terms of gender and nationality—across this global company.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would probably be working as a policy-maker and civil servant in government, perhaps in Cabinet Office, which does really interesting and important work. I have always had a passion for contributing to the public good, and I think I would have found ways other than research and education to contribute to the public good.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? One of the things I’m particularly proud of in my research are the close partnerships I have developed with large organizations and governments to test and implement new ideas in rigorous ways, most notably using large randomized controlled trials and, increasingly, data science and AI. I have found it really instructive to work side-by-side with policy-makers, as I enjoy co-creating interventions with them: it’s an opportunity for me to learn from their policy expertise, while at the same time I am able to provide insights from economics, management and AI on complex issues, and expertise on evaluating policies and interventions.

I also think that the diversity of my research interests, educational background and methods help me tackle problems in new ways. Ultimately, I am motivated by contributing to the public good and making the world a bit of a better place (I know this is a bit of a cliché, but it’s true); and my research agenda is as broad as it is deep, with projects focused on testing interventions to promote sustainability, reduce poverty, or increase gender diversity. Because of my interdisciplinary background from physics and biology to economics and management, I am happy to apply various methods, from theoretical and mathematical models to lab and online experimentation as well as large-scale randomized controlled trials to data science and AI.

Finally, I bring the same diversity of thought and real-world experience to my teaching: I challenge my students to grapple with real-world case studies and ask them to solve real-world issues on campus (e.g. last year’s challenge was to improve recycling behavior on campus). It’s the combination of application and theory that students seem to enjoy – and, perhaps, the fact that I come well prepared to class and like to end my classes with a punchline, a ‘reveal’ moment or twist, that students will remember.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Humbled.

Professor I most admire and why: There’s definitely not just one – indeed, there are too many to count them all, but the following people I have admired and am indebted to for their kindness and support throughout my career: from my PhD advisor Martin Nowak to my postdoc advisors Mike Norton and Iris Bohnet to my mentor Max Bazerman.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. MBA students have left their jobs—have taken a break and sometimes even a pay cut—to come back to university to learn. Most are really keen to learn as much as possible and they participate in activities – and the more they participate, the more they learn.

What is most challenging? Teaching MBA means making your content appeal to a wide range of students with diverse backgrounds. The challenge is to simplify enough so that everyone learns something at their pace, but not so much that the nuances and complexities of the material are lost. It’s a challenge but a rewarding one when you see students with different backgrounds appreciate different aspects of the material.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Inquisitive.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Uninterested.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair; and that I care a lot about their short and long-term outcomes.


What are your hobbies? My family! While I used to enjoy spending many hours every week doing martial arts (Aikido) and yoga, my wife and I now entertain and chase two young kids around the house – much better exercise, and more laughter all around!

How will you spend your summer? We love spending our holidays in the Mediterranean, whether it’s Greece, Italy or Spain. And this year, we will be on Mallorca with some friends and their families.

Favorite book(s): The Harry Potter books I grew up with and, of course—drumroll!—my wife’s books: historical fiction and non-fiction books about the ancient world. I’m her biggest fan!

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? In addition to some classics like Friends (feel-good jokes!) and the Big Bang Theory (geeky and fun), I also really enjoyed The Good Place thanks to its clever twist and turns, and the brilliant combination of philosophy, morality and goofy humour.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I used to be really into music as a teenager and would have had a long answer prepared for this question. Now I just enjoy a somewhat random mix of pop music in the car, classical music on the weekends, and film scores during the day (the perfect soundtrack for writing academic papers!).


I’m grateful for… My family who have always believed in me, as well as friends and colleagues who have supported me along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am today without any of them.


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