AACSB Annual Meeting (ICAM 2013): Lead by Choice: Lessons for the B-School (Sheena Iyengar, Columbia Business School)

cover sheena

“I am always looking for cool pictures.” said Sheena Iyengar at the end of her excellent presentation on how to “Lead by Choice”. The quote was all the more remarkable in that the director of the Global Leadership Matrix (GLeaM) at Columbia Business School is totally blind. The objective of the talk was to highlight “what effective leaders need to know about choice” and how you can choose your way to success. Indeed, there is so much information available that it has become imperative today to know how to choose.

Ms. Iyengar believes that all of us can develop and benefit from leadership skills, no matter what title or position we hold, but in order to do that, we have to learn to choose with wisdom, compassion and humility. To begin this process, you need to think about your power to determine the future. Where do you want to be in one, five and ten years? There doesn’t have to be a correlation, according to Ms. Iyengar, but the act of making choices empowers you to achieve. When you are faced with adversity you will look at the choices. “Leaders,” she says “see choice where others see no choice.” Effective leaders then help others to see those choices.

Today we have more choices and information than at any time in the past. According to Ms. Iyengar we are all encoding the equivalent of 174 newspapers every day. Amazon claims to have 40 million books and a typical grocery store carries 38 000 items. And yet the more choices people have the less satisfied they become. Numerous experiments have shown that people buy fewer items if they have too many to choose from.

creativity test

The creativity test proved that ‘less’ means sometimes ‘more’.

“Choice is an act of invention.” Say Ms. Iyengar. Having more choices does not make us more creative. This has been shown by a simple experiment with a group of professional knitters. One group was given 6 different colours of yarn and the other group, twelve. They were told to be as inventive as possible in their knitting. The results can be seen in the adjacent picture. Clearly the group that had fewer choices were able to be more inventive.

sheena iy

Less time to make choices pushes us to be choosy.

In fact, we have so many choices today that we have less and less time to make them. We all have so many emails that we are spending 2.5 hours per day working on them. A typical CEO has 139 tasks per week with about 5 choices per task and yet 50 percent of choices made within nine minutes.

Our culture helps us to see how we perceived choice. Americans think they are making far more choices in a day than other cultures. In fact, different cultures react differently to choices. Americans like more choice Asian cultures prefer fewer choices but more interaction with their superiors.

Lead by ChoiceScience can help us with choosing, but in the end it is an art. A great leader is excellent in choosing. They get people to narrow down those choices and limit them to no more than five. They develop intuition for certain choices or what Einstein referred to rather as pattern matching. They also get others to help them in their decision making process recognizing that “choosing is an act of collective invention.”


Check brief summary of Iyengar’s book.

“Everything begins with a story.” said the American mythologist, Joseph Campbell. You can tell your story through fate and chance but it is only by telling it through choice that we can understand how we got there. People have to take ownership of the narrative and then great leaders become “choosy about choosing.”


For Associate Deans of AACSB Member schools you can join the AACSB Affinity Group by Clicking Here


SheenaPhotoSheena Iyengar

Author of The Art of Choosing

Inaugural S.T. Lee Professor of Business, Columbia Business School, Columbia University


A world renowned expert on the subject of choice, Sheena Iyengar says that choice can provide a sense of freedom and control that is essential to our well-being. In her critically acclaimed book, The Art of Choosing, Iyengar shines a bright light on the many different facets of choice, exposing it in all its mystery, complexity and compelling beauty. Iyengar’s inter-disciplinary research on how and why we choose, and what we need to do to choose better, has surprising and profound implications for our personal and professional lives. The book was a finalist for the 2010 Financial Times & Goldman Sachs Best Business Book of the Year Award, and was ranked #3 on Amazon.com’s Top Ten Business & Investing Books of 2010. Iyengar is the inaugural S.T. Lee Professor of Business at Columbia Business School. She also is director of the Global Leadership Matrix (GLeaM) initiative and research director at the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business at Columbia Business School.

See also:

159 Millenials Incorporated Brent Smith main

AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leadership Skills and Strategies (David Logan: CultureSync & USC Marshall School of Business)

AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: Millennials Incorporated: Our Student Cohort AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Executive Education: Developing Non-Degree Education for the Future (Brent Smith)s


AACSB Annual Meeting (ICAM 2013): 5 Essential Social Media Practices for Academic Leaders (Dr. Michael Williams, Pepperdine University)

Cover picAt the AACSB Annual Conference in Chicago, Dr. Michael Williams from Pepperdine University gave an excellent, practical talk on some of the strategies we can adopt for using different social media efficiently in our jobs. Dr. Williams recognizes that “we are all trapped in a high flow information world” and struggling to cope with all the different media forms that exist. The meeting was organized by the Associate Deans Affinity Group and was attended by 70 delegates.

AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: The Many Faces of the Associate Dean

At the AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012, Dawn Hukai, Associate Dean at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Susan Laurenson, Associate Dean at The University of Auckland Business School and David J. Urban, Executive Associate Dean, at Virginia Commonwealth University discuss the many roles of an Associate Dean.

AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leading in Challenging Economic Times by Karyl B. Leggio

Speaking at AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012, Houston, TexasAt the AACSB Associate Deans conference, Karyl Leggio, Dean and Professor of Finance at the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University Maryland, led a fascinating discussion on the issues in setting up new programs. The topic of the presentation was centered around generating revenues and “managing costs by benefitting from revenue sharing initiatives.” Given that we are now into the fifth year of the financial crisis with no easy end in sight, this is an important subject to address.

AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: Lessons from Change in Business Schools

One of the opening sessions of the AACSB Conference for Associate Deans Conference brought together panelists from 4 business schools; Latha Ramchand, Dean at the University of Houston, Lynne Richardson, Dean at the University of Mary Washington, Deborah Spake, Associate Dean at the University of Alabama and Kristie Oglivie, Interim Associate Dean at California State University. The Panel was chaired by Susan McTiernan, Associate Dean at Quinnipiac University and Vice Chair of the Associate Deans Affinity Group.


Filed under Behavior, Business, Business Schools, Higher Education, India, Leadership, Management, Psychology, Strategy, USA

5 responses to “AACSB Annual Meeting (ICAM 2013): Lead by Choice: Lessons for the B-School (Sheena Iyengar, Columbia Business School)

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