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Key Research Initiative


using modern methods of behavioural economics and econometrics to understand and evaluate the impact of management practices on behaviour and performance in firms


Behavioural Management Science (BMS) brings together researchers that apply methods of behavioural economics and applied microeconometrics to advance our understanding of how management practices influence the behaviour of people in organisations and affect organisational performance. In order to do so, the group applies a broad set of complementary research methods. A key element of the research strategy in BMS is to establish close links with organisations in order to run field experiments and analyse company data for the development of academically rigorous research, as generating insights is highly relevant to decision makers in practice. BMS closely collaborates with economists and psychologists within the Center of Social and Economic Behaviour (C-SEB) and the Cluster of Excelllence ECONtribute: Markets & Public Policy.

The most important subfields are:

  • Behavioural Operations Management: analysing the design and management of products, processes and services, both within and between corporations.
  • Behavioural Organisational and Personnel Economics: studying incentive schemes, organisational structures and personnel decisions and processes.
  • Behavioural Ethics: investigating drivers of (un-)ethical behaviour in organisations.
  • Behavioural Health Care Management: studying the behaviour of professionals in the health care sector.


Key questions are often guided by the aim to improve the design of a specific management practices in order to increase performance, collaboration, employee well-being or to reduce unethical behaviour.

The future aim is to extend our activities, further developing relevant insights for the design of management practices such as incentive schemes, supply chain contracts, compliance rules, organisational structures and performance measurement or appraisal tools.

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All of the Key Research Initiative’s current members work multidisciplinary. The Behavioural Management Science group consists of the following members:


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BMS related researchers have published very successfully in a broad number of leading academic journals, such as Management Science, The American Economic Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Harvard Business Review, Production and Operations Management, The Economic Journal, the Journal of Health Economics or the Journal of Labor Economics.

Coooperations and joint activities

Beside manifold cooperative projects at C-SEB and ECONtribute level researchers in BMS have established many international collaborative projects. International faculty members Gary Bolton and Elena Katok (both UT Dallas) are part of BMS and work actively with many BMS researchers in Cologne (senior faculty as well as several PhD students and postdocs). Researchers in BMS work on joint research projects with researchers from a broad number of institutions.


The transfer into research-led education is ensured in WiSo Faculty’s under- and postgraduate study programmes as well as in University of Cologne Business School’s executive education:

Bachelor’s programmes: an elective module “Behavioural Management Science” has been developed and established in which students learn essentials of behavioural economics for management research, analyse data themselves and are trained to program experiments. They then take part in a seminar in which they design, program and run their own experiments.

Master’s programmes: different formats are adopted that educate master students in core research methods, e.g. the course “The Econometric Evaluation of Management Practices”, which trains business students in econometrics and applys this to company data. In research projects students work in small teams on their own research projects. Moreover, the existing teaching format has been extended for business projects to bring firms, students, and academia closer together. In previous years, students have proposed designs for field experiments to evaluate specific interventions and even ran a field experiment in one firm.

Executive MBA: courses for the University of Cologne Business School executive programme are also offered to incorporate behavioural research insights in order to ensure that BMS issues are also applied in the management levels of the companies.

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Following the WiSo Faculty’s motto “Today’s Ideas. Tomorrow’s Impact.”, Behavioural Management Scientists work closely together with practitioners on many projects. In particular, recent emphasis on conducting field experiments in firms has strengthened the transfer of insights to practice.

Aside from studying and running field experiments in manifold organisations, the researchers present their work regularly at business practice conferences and workshops and interact closely with professionals from their respective fields.

The business projects offered in WiSo’s Master’s programmes are run every year in order to foster behavioural management research in the corporate world. This also develops closer links between firms, students and academia.