Professor Profiles: HEC Paris’s Anne Laure Sellier

Having the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest minds in business is one of the top motivators for many applicants considering an MBA degree at an elite business school. The professors and lecturers you’ll encounter have worked in the trenches, and bring an incredible wealth of real-world experiences into the classroom setting.

In our new limited series of professor interviews on the SBC blog, readers will get to know a bit more about these brilliant academics, what fields most excite them, the trends they foresee, what they enjoy most about teaching at their respective universities, and how it all comes together with their students.

Today we’ll introduce you to Dr. Anne-Laure Sellier, Associate Professor of Marketing at HEC Paris.  Prior to joining HEC Paris, Sellier was a faculty member at the London Business School, and at the Stern School of Business of New York University. She also taught at the Columbia Business School.

Her current research interests are in the area of time perception influences on decision-making, creativity, self-regulation, self-control, consumer happiness, cognitive biases, and generally in how emotions and cognitions interact in judgment and decision-making.

Education: Ph.D. in Management

Courses Taught: Creativity Accelerators, Consumer Behavior, Decision Making and Influence

What triggered your interest in your subject matter?

Creativity is our highest cognitive function and remains poorly understood. I am keen on pursuing creativity-related topics as there is so much to discover, and so much of the environment that we currently live on quite simply stifles creativity that studying the simple changes we can implement is very enjoyable.

My interest in time perception comes from another simple observation: we do not make decisions and evaluate things and people around us in a temporal vacuum. Considerable research shows that the timing of our thoughts dramatically influences the quality of the decisions we make. Equally critical to understanding how to make good decisions is to investigate when to make them.

Finally, my interest in social influence comes from the fact that we live in a world in which making decisions alone is remarkably rare. Others surround us and influence us, either directly (i.e., others are physically near us) or indirectly (e.g., we are surfing the Internet knowing that others are surfing the same platform).

We’ve known for a while that social influence has powerful influences on the way we think and behave. In a world more social than ever, it appears critical to understand the specific influences that a single person, a hundred people, or a million views can have on our decision making.

What’s changed since you entered the field?

Modern societies changed, with the technological revolution. The way we live, work, communicate, and meditate about the world (or simply waste time online) has dramatically changed in the past 15 years, and we don’t understand much of what the world will look like in twenty years from now, due to this rapid rate of change.

Our thinking gets obviously affected, and it is timely — in fact, urgent — to understand the benefits and disadvantages of this technological revolution.

Any surprising or unique applications of your field of study?

Of course! Scientific discovery is all about carving out applications that people would not have thought of ex ante, so they are by definition surprising. One finding, for instance, is that the presence of a clock in a room can take control out of people’s minds — they instantly feel that things happen in the world more randomly, which is a problem if these people are CEOs (as CEOs are hopefully feeling responsible for the actions they take).

What do you like about the school you are teaching at?

HEC has sensational students. Not only are they smart, they also typically received a renaissance education, which makes it rewarding to exchange with them on how to best solve business issues that they will be confronted with.

What can you do in the classroom to best prepare students for the real world?

Practice, practice, practice solving business issues with…themselves. It is one thing to understand good rational thinking in theory, and another to know how you make decisions (well or not) and how you make them when working in groups (you’re a different animal with others).

I try to make students aware as much as possible of these different selves they have, so they know how to navigate their own decision-making optimally after school (e.g., which type of company should they join? Which kind of team culture? Etc.).

What are you most excited about that’s happening in your field?

I’m excited about the fact that data has become easier and cheaper to get than ever, and that we can obtain it on an unprecedented large-scale. With big data and artificial intelligence, we are now able to empirically test certain predictions more convincingly than before. In psychology, this promises to make a tremendous difference.

Can you speak to interesting trends in your field?

The trend I am most excited about is that fewer research papers should get published, as the standards for research excellence are becoming more and more stringent. This means that slow research is coming back — they has been a tendency to publish away, too many papers, too quickly, with the major downside of encouraging the publication of marginally interesting findings.

Best advice for an aspiring business mogul?

Please orient your business as much as you can to solving the environmental crisis. This should be the higher-order goal of your business.

What’s the impact you want to leave on your students? … On the world?

Help them see what they feel they are to accomplish in their lives. Create value for the world, the most important being the preservation of our environment.

Thank you so much Professor Sellier for sharing your insights and experiences with our readers! You can watch Sellier’s fascinating TED Talk video on clock timers vs even timers— “What how you view time says about you”—at TEDxHEC Paris.

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