Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Art of Choosing and an Amazing Female Business Professor who is Blind

Being a professor is sufficiently challenging, but to be successful as a business school professor, while a female, and blind, is quite the achievement! Today's New York Times has a feature article on Dr. Sheena Iyengar, who holds a named chaired professorship at the School of Business at Columbia University. She has been blind since she was a teenager.

Her book, The Art of Choosing, will be out later this month. Dr. Iyengar, while a grad student at Stanford University, conducted the famous "jam study" in which jars of jam were placed on tables in a supermarket — different flavors in groups of 6 and 24 — and offered as samples to shoppers. Interestingly, many of the shoppers who visited the table with the smaller sampling ended up buying jam with their groceries, whereas relatively few bought jam that visited the tables with the large selection. This study, which she was assisted by research assistants, became known as more is less! — and made Sheena Iyengar quite the celebrity.

Dr. Sheena Iyengar is married to Dr. Garud Iyengar, who is a Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IE/OR) at Columbia, and who also received a PhD from Stanford University. This is so very cool! Her background is in social psychology whereas his is in Operations Research. The Times article focuses on how she personally makes decisions with the help of a group of her "advisors."

I gave a talk on Dynamic Networks at Columbia in September 2006 and was hosted by the IE/OR department and the Decisions, Risk & Operations group.