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2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Jordi Quoidbach, ESADE Business School

Jordi Quoidbach

Associate Professor 

ESADE Business School

ESADE’s Jordi Quoidbach is interested in the exploration of happiness and the determinants of happiness. His work seeks to increase happiness among individuals and to help them make better personal and professional decisions for themselves. This research has been published in top academic publications and is often covered by popular news media. Professor Quoidbach has written several prominent books on emotion and happiness and even hosts a happiness coaching TV series “J’ai decide d’etre heureux” (I Decided to be Happy) that is broadcasted on French television. Students say they are captivated by the research and energy he brings into the classroom, practical role playing activities, and interactive lectures.

Age: 37

At current institution since what year? 2017

Education: Ph.D. in Psychology, Social and Personality Psychology, University of Liège, Belgium, 2010.

List of courses you currently teach: Negotiation, People Management

Twitter handle: @JordiQuoidbach

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I started attending Mike Norton and Francesca Gino’s lab meetings during my post-doc at Harvard and realized how incredibly fun, yet practically relevant, my work life could be.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Human beings spend about 25% of their time experiencing some form of conflict between choosing to do something that makes them feel happy in the moment and something that will make them feel happy in the future. I am fascinated by the way we overcome such trade-offs in daily life. Over the last couple of years, my collaborators and I have been measuring the activities and emotions of tens of thousands of people in real time. We found that for most of us, happiness is a delicate balance. When we’re feeling down, we tend to seek activities with short-term rewards to boost our spirits (e.g., leave work early and go for a drink). When we’re feeling good, we often sacrifice fun activities for the potential of longer-term welfare (e.g., pass on the drink to make progress on an important project). One key takeaway from this research is that happiness can perhaps be seen as a resource: when we don’t have enough, we need to replenish it, but as soon as we have enough, we can potentially use it to get things done. Putting some time aside every day for moments of fun might actually make our days more productive.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I’d love to be an undercover critic for the Michelin Guide.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? A high energy level combined with a high propensity to give unsolicited dating advice. Always evidence-based, though!

“One word that describes my first time teaching” :

Out-of-tune. I tried to look cool by playing some music in the classroom before the beginning of the class. The results of that experiment were 100 puzzled pairs of eyes and 10 extremely awkward minutes before class started.

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be?

I’d love it to be “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” by DMX – but realistically, it’s probably closer to a cheerful ballad.

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

Finding ways to translate complex research ideas into simple actionable advice that students can try in their everyday lives. And being told later that some of these ideas made a difference.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor”:

Nothing. I like surprises.

Professor you most admire and why:

I feel incredibly lucky to have benefited from the mentorship of Daniel Gilbert, Elizabeth Dunn, and Michael Norton, who, in addition to being some of the smartest, most caring, and coolest people I’ve met, showed me how everyday human behavior is an endless source of inspiration for research.

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Coming from a relatively “old-school” university system, where students religiously take notes without asking questions, I keep being amazed by how engaged and engaging my MBA students are.

What is most challenging?

Spending hours engineering perfectly balanced student groups and learning 5 minutes before class that some people cannot make it.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student:

Curious

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student:

Arrogant

What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done?

We were playing a group version of the prisoner’s dilemma where students had the choice between collaborating or betraying others across a series of rounds. The students on one team each decided to put down $100 of their own money that others could keep if they ever betrayed the group. In the last round, one particularly kind-hearted student decided to betray her group members, effectively losing her money. When I asked her why she did it, she replied: “I’ve never betrayed anyone in my entire life and feeling what it’s like to be selfish for the first time was a life experience well worth a hundred bucks.” I loved it!

What is the least favorite thing one has done?

Being disrespectful and condescending towards another student in front of the entire class.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?

Get out of their comfort zone and be willing to experiment with new behaviors.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …”

Very generous

“But I would describe myself as …”

Caring very little about the formal grading system and much more about the choices they’ll make outside of class.

Fill in the blank:

“If my students can challenge common sense, trends, and what intuitively feels right with data and evidence, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself:

I’ve spent hours learning and practicing the Japanese version of Frozen’s “Let it Go” to impress Tokyo’s local karaoke aficionados.

What are your hobbies?

Playing badminton, German-style board games, and exploring Barcelona’s fantastic food scene.

How will you spend your summer?

Preparing a room for my soon-to-be-born first child.

Favorite place to vacation:

Liège, Belgium, where I grew up and where many of my closest friends still live.

Favorite book:

The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

There are many, but I’d say The Wire because of its brilliant, multifaceted analysis of the forces that shape human behavior. And also because of Omar.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

It varies a lot. At the moment, a French rapper named Orelsan.

Bucket list item #1:

In fact, I just crossed it off: I had always dreamed of living in Japan. Last year, I got the chance to do a sabbatical in Tokyo. It was a wonderful experience!

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Publishing a paper in Science was very exciting—mainly because it helped my engineer, chemist, and biologist friends acknowledge that a psychologist could do “real science.”  

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?

When I tried to make the point that our thoughts are just thoughts by asking everyone in class to share a negative self-judgment out loud after inhaling from a helium balloon. The classroom looked like an 8-year old birthday party with hundreds of balloons flying around, but I think it was a powerful experience for many students.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…”

A required class on what makes life rich and meaningful

“And much less of this…”

Focus on school rankings

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Please explain.

Routinely integrating the scientific method and experiments into business decisions. Too many practices, especially when it comes to managing people, are based on untested assumptions (at best!).

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you.

Ten years from now, “success” would be to still get as excited about exploring research ideas, starting new collaborations, and interacting with students, while being as present as I can be for my kids, family, and friends.

Students say…

“Jordi is quite possibly the best professor I’ve had during my MBA. He put together an amazing negotiations class with a mix of practical role plays and interactive lectures. His ability to capture the students’ attention with stories and research brings an incredible energy to the class room. By sharing his extensive knowledge in the field of psychology he brings a relevant and human perspective to the sometimes traditional world of negotiation.”

Helene Nordgreen, ESADE MBA Candidate 2018

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