2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Elena Reutskaja, IESE Business School

Elena Reutskaja

Associate Professor of Marketing

IESE Business School

How’s this for a rave review? One of Elena Reutskaja’s students likens her performance as a business school professor to an orchestra conductor who guides musicians to a breathtaking level of mastery that evokes deep emotions.

How does she do it? Showing a vested interest in her students. Remembering details about each student in her classroom and recalling in detail what each participant has said in previous classes. Plus, Reutskaja manages to do this with unbridled energy and a terrific sense of humor. It’s these types of characteristics that create a dynamic class atmosphere that thoroughly engages her students.

When she’s not teaching a class like an awe-inspiring orchestra conductor, Professor Reutskaja is actively involved in a number of international research projects run by leading institutions across the world. Her research is found between consumer behavior, decision making, and international marketing while her primary research focus is on the problem of choice overload that consumers face day-to-day.

Age: 38

At current institution since: 2008

Education: PhD in Economics, Finance and Management, specializing in Behavioral Decision Making, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain), December 2008

List of courses you currently teach: Marketing Management; Behavioral Insights; Behavioral Decision Making

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My main areas of expertise are choice architecture and choice overload. I employ many different methods from traditional experiments to brain-imaging, eye-tracking and emotion recognition because I believe it makes research more interesting, novel, solid and fun.  

I have made many discoveries about how we make choices, that I myself have learned from: that our brain simply “switches off” and shows less activity in several areas when we are choosing from very big, rather than from intermediate, choice sets; that our eyes are too “lazy” to examine every choice option available to us, even if we have time to do so; that when choosing a hospital for surgery, patients often place greater weight on attributes such as distance to home or cleanliness of the room, over attributes that can actually can kill them  (like “mortality ratio” or “infection rates”); that innumerate people are more vulnerable to “evil” nudges than numerate ones; that choosing in a dyad makes you give up your best alternative but does not make you feel worse because of it. Fortunately, I have also discovered that there are many tools available to people which can help them make better decisions. Studying these tools fascinates me.  

Professor you most admire: Impossible to choose one! There are so many! But in the first place, I definitely would mention my “academic parents” (advisers) Robin Hogarth (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Rosemarie Nagel (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) who are not just great professionals but also incredible people. And, of course, Carlos Garcia Pont from IESE, who taught me how to teach.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I was in kindergarten… As long as I remember myself I remember being sure that I would be a professor when I grow up.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I would be an entrepreneur or fashion designer.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: “Oh, my God!” (in all the senses simultaneously)

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: When students gave me a standing ovation after my very first course had finished. I did not deserve it, but that was the best appreciation I could dream of!

What professional achievement are you most proud of? When I was asked by a policy-maker and one of the central banks for professional advice…

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? Always being in an energetic environment full of students who are smarter than you (our MBA and Executive students are outstanding.)

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Grading on a bell-curve. I suffer when putting “Cs”…

What is your favorite business-themed movie and what is the biggest lesson that MBA students could gain from it? Moneyball. It shows that decision making is not as useless and boring as many people thought it to be …

What are your favorite companies and why?  Expilab Research and Emotion Research Lab because they make the experiments we conduct much more realistic and fun. And their founders are incredible and cool.

Fun fact about yourself: I was a member of the National Fencing Team and Champion of Belarus in Fencing (when I was young…)

Bucket list item #1: Change someone´s life for the better.

Favorite book: I passionately hate reading novels… (Borrowed it from my friend Matthias Seifert )

Favorite movie: Many. From The Godfather to Love Actually.

Favorite type of music: From classic Russian composers to Bossa nova to Rock.

Favorite television show: I do not watch many. If I have time, I prefer to watch the sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

Favorite vacation spot: New York

What are your hobbies? Sports, hiking, travelling, dancing

Twitter handle:  Don´t have one.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…no borders: accessible only based on merit (tuition/costs/ visas/gender/languages would not be an obstacle for anyone). And business education, in turn, would focus more on teaching how to build ethically responsible and sustainable businesses.”

Students say:

Just like an orchestra conductor guides a beautiful musical rendition to evoke emotions, Elena guides conversations during a case discussion to bring out a spectrum of opinions that highlight interesting aspects of the case. As an engineer, I appreciate the way in which Elena introduced the world of marketing and its unique frameworks that made the process of creative thinking easy. Her energy coupled with a great sense of humor ensures that the class remains engaged and focused on every twist and turn throughout the discussion. Her classes are definitely a highlight of my MBA learning experience!”

“Marketing is a hard subject to teach, and in my opinion, professor Elena did this extremely well. Not only did she have a strong grasp on marketing principles and related theory to real life extremely well, but also added an interesting sense of fun to all her cases. I looked forward to all her classes, and prepared for them thoroughly, since participating in her class was almost a given.”

“Elena is a remarkable professor and passionate human being. Her animated teaching style captivates students’ attention in a way that is relevant and interesting to both students that have years of marketing experience and those that have absolutely none. Elena shows her vested interest in her students by remembering individual characteristics and recalling what each student has said in previous classes. In this way, she creates a dynamic class atmosphere where students are constantly engaged. All her actions have equipped her students with applicable skills no matter what their future careers will be.”


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