Portrait image for Ian Larkin

Ian Larkin

Associate Professor of Strategy
“We hear all the time that competitive advantage is about human capital – attracting, retaining and appropriately motivating the best employees. In my research and teaching, I aim to put science behind the question of how firms can use HR policies to generate sustainable improvement in their productivity and profits.”
(310) 825-5484, Office D-519
Areas of Expertise:
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Employee Decision Making
  • Health Care
  • Human Resource Management
  • Motivation
  • Strategy


An associate 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 the Journal of the American Medical Association, Management Science, Organization Science, Journal of Labor Economics, and Strategic Management Journal, and has been cited by leading media outlets that include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, Forbes, Slate, and National Public Radio. He is an Associate Editor of Management Science, a leading academic journal in business management and strategy.

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.



Business Strategy



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



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 and 2016

Dean George W. Robbins Assistant Professor Teaching Award, 2015



Ian Larkin, "The Cost of High-Powered Incentives: Employee Gaming in Enterprise Software Sales," Journal of Labor Economics

Ian Larkin et al, "Association Between Academic Medical Center Pharmaceutical Detailing Policies and Physician Prescribing Behavior," Journal of the American Medical Association

Timothy Gubler, Ian Larkin, and Lamar Pierce, "Doing Well by Making Well: The Impact of Corporate Wellness Programs on Employee Productivity," Management Science

Ian Larkin, Lamar Pierce, and Francesca Gino , "The Psychological Costs of Pay-for-Performance: Implications for the Strategic Compensation of Employees," Strategic Management Journal

Benjamin Edelman and Ian Larkin, "Social Comparisons and Deception Across Workplace Hierarchies: Field and Experimental Evidence," Organization Science

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


Media Coverage

Forbes: “How to Demotivate Your Best Employees”

Harvard Business Review: “How Incentives Can Demotivate Employees”

CNBC"Inside Employee Motivation: Does Money Really Make a Difference?" 

Newsweek: "How Pharma Changes Your Doctor's Mind"

Slate"Why Do Drug Reps Give Doctors Free Pens?" 

Quartz: "The Way We Pay Doctors in the US Makes Them Find Problems That Aren't There"

Wall Street Journal: "Wellness Programs Pay Off, Study Says"