Ian Larkin

Profile photo of Ian Larkin
“Incentive systems are imperfect — they are designed to motivate value-creating behavior but always carry unintended consequences. Instead of arguing about ‘whether’ a given incentive system is superior or inferior to others in all cases, it’s far more useful to understand ‘when’ and ‘how’ each type of system will or will not work.”
 

Assistant Professor of Strategy

Areas of Expertise

  • Behavioral Economics
  • Employee Decision Making
  • Human Resource Management
  • Motivation
  • Strategy

About

 

Biography

An assistant professor in the UCLA Anderson strategy group, Ian Larkin’s research is focused on compensation, incentives, employee motivation and human resources. His interest in the discipline comes compliments of his first job, with McKinsey & Company, where he spent four years as an associate and engagement manager in McKinsey’s Hong Kong and Silicon Valley offices, advising senior executives on corporate strategy in the banking and high technology industries.

Larkin began his academic career as an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. He returned to his native California by accepting a position with UCLA Anderson, which he calls “an outstanding school with a top MBA program and a close proximity to Silicon Beach, where so much is going on in the technology space” — his targeted industry of interest. His primary research has ranged from the examination of corporate awards and programs that companies utilize to recognize employee performance and their potential unintended costs to decision-making influenced by various sales tactics and their respective cost outcomes in numerous industries, including technology and medicine. He is currently looking at the effects that workplace wellness programs have on employee motivation and productivity, as well as “gamification” in the workplace, which uses nonmonetary rewards to encourage improvements in employee behavior.

Larkin’s research has been published in a number of professional journals, including Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science and American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, and has been cited by leading media outlets that include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes and National Public Radio.

Larkin received his bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona. He also spent time living in China, Japan and Taiwan, where he learned to speak conversational Mandarin Chinese and Japanese, which may have helped him land his first position with McKinsey. Larkin earned his Ph.D. at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

When not in the classroom or conducting research, Larkin enjoys cooking (having studied the art professionally in France), traveling, writing fiction and supporting the Green Bay Packers, of which he is one of  more than 360,000 individual shareholders .

 

Courses

Business Strategy

 

Education

Ph.D. Business and Public Policy, 2007, UC Berkeley

M.Sc. Economics, 1997, University of London

B.S. Economics, Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, 1996, University of Arizona

 

Recognition

Harry S. Truman Scholar

British Marshall Scholar

Executive MBA (EMBA) Faculty Teaching Award, 2014

Teaching Excellence Award in the Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA) program, 2015

Dean George W. Robbins Assistant Professor Teaching Award, 2015

 

Publications

Ian Larkin, "The cost of high-powered incentives: Employee gaming in enterprise software sales," Journal of Labor Economics.

Ian Larkin, L. Pierce, F. Gino, “The psychological costs of pay-for-performance: Implications for the strategic compensation of employees,”, Strategic Management Journal.

Gubler, Timothy, Ian Larkin and Lamar Pierce, “Motivational Spillovers from Awards: Crowding Out in a Multitasking Environment,” Organization Science, Forthcoming.

Ian Larkin and Stephen Leider, “Incentive Schemes, Sorting and Behavioral Biases of Employees: Experimental Evidence,” American Economic Journal: Microeconomics.

B. Edelman and Ian Larkin, “Social comparisons and deception across workplace hierarchies: Field and experimental evidence,” Organization Science.

Ian Larkin, D. Ang, J. Avorn and A. Kesselheim, “Restrictions on pharmaceutical detailing reduced off-label prescribing of antidepressants and antipsychotics in children,” Health Affairs

 

Media Coverage

Forbes: “How to Demotivate Your Best Employees” http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/04/08/how-to-demotivate-your-best-employees/

Harvard Business Review: “How Incentives Can Demotivate Employees” https://hbr.org/2013/07/how-incentives-can-demotivate-employees

Forbes: “The Most Powerful Workplace Motivator” http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/05/16/the-most-powerful-workplace-motivator/

The Fiscal Times: “Why Workers Mistrust the New Performance Quotas” http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/04/21/Why-Workers-Mistrust-New-Performance-Quotas

CNBC: “Inside Employee Motivation: Does Money Really Make a Difference?” http://www.cnbc.com/id/49968485