10 Questions with Anindya Ghose
Monday, February 1, 2016
Posted by: Brook Pritchett
This month, the AIS InSider features Anindya Ghose, a Professor of IT and Professor of Marketing, Director Center for Business Analytics, NYU Stern. He has published extensively in leading IS, operations management and marketing journals, and is a frequent and prolific speaker at a wide variety of professional and academic events. Notably, he has been listed as one of the “Top 40 Professors Under 40 Worldwide” and one of the “Top 200 Thought Leaders in Big Data and Business Analytics”. His research, which is avowedly industry and practice oriented, has been profiled numerous times by leading news sources worldwide. You can learn more about him from http://people.stern.nyu.edu/aghose/.
Mike Smith writes, “I’d love to hear Anindya Ghose’s thoughts on how he is able to maintain such an impressive level of research productivity.”
I'll start by saying I sleep much less than most people. I am also able to multi-task ( (i) handling research deadlines, (ii) teaching commitments, (iii) editorial work, (iv) heading data science for start-ups, (v) engaging in business analytics consulting, (vi) testifying as a scientific expert in litigation consulting, and (vii) traveling globally approx. 120 days a year for speaking engagements) very well. Perhaps most importantly, I have a distinct passion for everything that I do. So this combination of passion in what I do, combined with the ability to sleep less and multi-task well helps me stay research productive. I'd also add that I've benefited greatly from having terrific co-authors. So all these things help.
When working on a new idea or project, how do you determine what is premier quality? What is your litmus test?
When I hear about a new idea, whether mine or someone else's, the litmus test for me is "how different is this from all questions that have been answered in the academic literature in the past". The second criteria is "how relevant and real world is the problem?" What I mean is that my research tends to be very practical and real world problem driven that managers can apply straightaway to practice. I don't have any interest in working on problems that are academically rigorous but have little practical use. I'm also deeply embedded within the industry, and advice start-ups and heavily consult on a regular basis for a wide variety of companies in digital marketing, mobile and social media, e-commerce, internet marketing, data analytics, big data and so on. In sum, the combination of being the first to answer a question in a given space and looking at how relevant that problem is to the real world is my litmus test.
In your opinion, what makes a person a good academic collaborator?
I think the most important criteria is delivering on your commitments to your co-authors on time. There are in fact academics who will promise to be responsive and deliver, but will sit on their end of the task for a really long time. That is very detrimental to their co-authors. It is bad for their reputation, bad for their co-authors, bad for the planet. A great co-author is prompt, very responsible, professional and always delivers on the timelines. Another quality is one who does not hesitate to have a difference of opinion or be critical of your ideas (in a constructive way).
You have collaborated across time zones, disciplines, etc. What advice can you share with the community on how best to manage relationships with co-authors?
It’s a reciprocal relationship because this is a long term game. If you are professional, committed to deadlines, timely, responsible and prompt, for the most part, you see reciprocity of that kind of behavior from your co-authors. My advice to doctoral students and junior faculty is to choose co-authors very carefully. Get a sense for how professional a certain individual is when it comes to academic collaboration. Another piece of advice is to try to have a balance of senior, mid-level and junior collaborators in your portfolio of co-authors. Lastly, look for co-authors who have similar thinking as you. My preference, like I said, is to work on problems that can be taken by companies and applied directly in the real-world. Therefore, I also look for collaborators who have similar beliefs on the significance of working on data-driven problems that can be applied directly by organizations.
What do you consider the most interesting research questions (or research domains) of the next five years?
Most research that is heavily data-driven, e.g. problems in business analytics or data science would be interesting, rigorous and relevant. I think interesting applications (of research) are going to be in mobile marketing, wearable technologies, digital health, fintech (applications of tech in finance such as crowdfunding or blockchain) and the internet of things. These areas, I would reckon, are some of the most exciting and promising in the coming years for academics to take a deep dive into.
Your career has progressed at a record pace, from assistant to full professor in 8.5 years at NYU Stern. When you look back, what was the biggest sacrifice you had to make that doctoral students and young faculty should learn from?
Despite working 15 hours a day, every day of the week and every week of the year, I never felt like I was sacrificing. I have always been very passionate about my work, whether it is research, teaching, editorial service or industry consulting. I was motivated to be the one of the fastest to become a full professor across multiple disciplines because it is such an incredible honor to be recognized by your colleagues in this way. That was a predetermined milestone for me, it didn’t just happen out of the blue. I was one of the handful of faculty who got early tenure at NYU Stern before becoming among the youngest full professors in NYU and the fastest (in terms of years since PhD) across the IS, Operations and Marketing disciplines across the world. To me, being the youngest or the fastest to achieve something was a goal because of the intrinsic recognition associated with it. So I never really felt like I was sacrificing something because I was always working towards that goal.
What community has visibly influenced your career?
I would say that the biggest influence on me has been the practitioner or industry community. Like I said, I have intentionally and consciously decided to immerse myself in the practitioner community, whether advising startups or consulting for established organizations. I consult heavily and help organizations achieve both short-term tactical and long-term strategic goals, and this is an outcome of my applied data-driven research. In addition, three other academic communities that have also influenced my research are marketing, computer science and economics.
How can doctoral students and other IS researchers become part of this community?
Doctoral students need to proactive in this regard. We live in interesting times. Doctoral students can very easily reach out to very interesting startups and get embedded in them, do summer internships or part time jobs, get access to data, run some interesting field experiments. All these will help their careers. I would tell doctoral students to be proactive. If you live in a decent-sized city, chances are you will have access to some pretty interesting firms. Reach out to them, talk to them, and see if they can collaborate with you. Once you have some experience, reach out to more established organizations to see if they want to collaborate with you. Increasingly industry is becoming very receptive and excited to collaborate with academics, especially those who do data driven analytical modelling, predictive analytics, causal modelling, and so on.
Tell us something very few people know about you?
Outside academia and industry engagements, I am a trained high altitude mountaineer. I have climbed extensively in the Himalayas, Andes, the Rockies, Cascades, and so on. I have scaled multiple high-altitude summits.
Finally: Who would you like to see answer these questions next? And what would you like to see her/his thoughts on? (Please list two or more questions for each person)
I would like to nominate Prof Erik Bynjolfsson of MIT and ask him how he was able to become such an influential voice in industry and policy circles.
David Agogo, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
For questions about this series or suggestions of who you would like to see interviewed, please contact David Agogo (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also, view more information about the column, a list of past features and links to past interviews here. http://agogodavid.com/ais-10-questions-with/