Pilot CEOs and corporate innovation

Jayanthi Sunder, Shyam V. Sunder, Jingjing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

278 Scopus citations


We find evidence that chief executive officers’ (CEOs’) hobby of flying airplanes is associated with significantly better innovation outcomes, measured by patents and citations, greater innovation effectiveness, and more diverse and original patents. We rule out alternative explanations, leading us to conclude that CEO pilot credentials capture the personality trait of sensation seeking. Sensation seeking combines risk taking with a desire to pursue novel experiences and has been associated with creativity. Our evidence highlights sensation seeking as a valuable personality trait that can be used to identify CEOs who are likely to drive innovation success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-224
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Financial Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • CEOs
  • Innovation
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Personality traits
  • Sensation seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Pilot CEOs and corporate innovation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this