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International decision making: connecting cultures

Ursula F. Ott, Professor

My research journey is a story of curiosity, hard work and serendipity. After my undergraduate and master’s degrees in international trade at Vienna University of Economics and Business, the world was changing. With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the rapid growth of the European Union, I became interested in exploring the challenges we face as individuals, groups and companies across the globe.

My research journey

With an economics and sociology background, my PhD focused on decision-making and internationalization strategies of agricultural cooperatives in the EU. This set the scene for an interdisciplinary and international agenda which allowed me to identify challenges and work on global solutions for these cooperatives. After my PhD, I was an assistant professor at the University of Vienna. Continuing with cooperation and conflict, my next focus was on decision-making and internationalization for international joint ventures.

After receiving funding from the Austrian Science Fund to investigate and develop these joint ventures, I was invited as a Research Scholar to the London School of Economics (LSE) with an Erwin-Schrödinger-Fellowship. The intellectual environment at the University of Vienna and the London School of Economics, as well as the leading minds and pioneers there, showed me the importance of curiosity, hard work, and investigative mind, and luck.

At the LSE, I came across a book on how cultures collide by Richard Lewis, which inspired me to develop a game theoretical model for international negotiations. This was the start of a fascinating journey. It helped me to get deeper insights by using international negotiations and direct observations to create the knowledge we need to understand deep-rooted cognitive patterns and cooperation within, and across, cultures.

Throughout my research career, I have been inspired by numerous leading scholars. Their knowledge, advice and discussions have been invaluable. At the LSE, I was a lecturer and then I started working as a senior lecturer at Loughborough University. After that, I moved back to London and founded the Centre for Experimental Research in International Business as professor at Kingston University London. In 2018, I joined NTU as professor for international business and founded the Centre for International Business Strategy and Decisions.

My research focuses on how people across different cultures make decisions, cooperate, negotiate and evolve, and how these different behaviours affect decision-making in international business settings. I am passionate about the possibility to work on problems and find solutions with a variety of research methods so I can contribute to people’s lives by creating new insights into human behaviour.

  • Ursula Ott undertaking research in her office
    Ursula undertaking research in her office
  • Ursula Ott delivering a lecture
    Ursula delivering a lecture
  • Ursula Ott undertaking research in Nottingham Business School
    Ursula undertaking research in Nottingham Business School
  • Ursula Ott, NTU Professor

Understanding that we are more connected culturally than we are divided

My research helps to examine cultural differences to support organizations and governments to make culturally informed judgements and decisions. I combine game theoretical reasoning with cultural models, and conduct experiments to see how different cultures operate during negotiations.

Having discovered that culturally, many of us share commonalities in our negotiation patterns, my research has allowed me to discover that different cultures have more in common with each other than we might think. When people understand that there are similarities existing between their culture and another, it can change how they see the other people, and the world around themselves.

There is a lot of research potential in this area, and I have experienced collaborations with academics and industries on a global scale on topics ranging from migration and integration to international cooperation between organizations and trade-offs in international business.

Through my research, I am showing that progress and collaboration is possible. And that by working together, we are more connected than we are divided.

Follow my story

My story doesn’t end here. Keep up to date with me and my research by keeping an eye on my academic profile. For anything else, please feel free to email me on

Ursula F. Ott

Professor Ursula F. Ott is the Director of the Centre for International Business Strategy and Decisions (CIBSD) and Vice President for Webinars on the Academy of International Business (AIB) Research Methods SIG Board. Ursula's research and teaching interests comprise strategic and interactive decision making in international organisations, collaborative relationships across culture and international negotiations.

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