Babson Magazine

Fall 2013

Living a Life of Experimentation

Exploration happily permeates Anne Roggeveen’s life, personally and professionally.

Photo: Pat Piasecki
Photo: Pat Piasecki
“Life happens,” says Anne Roggeveen. “You go along the path, and you reflect back. What did I enjoy?” Use those insights, she counsels, to make future decisions.

One day, Anne Roggeveen walked into her State Street office and said to herself, “I cannot do this every day for the rest of my life.” She was working as a process engineer, analyzing business work flows and operations and then redesigning them for better efficiency.

Although she found the job fascinating at first, a year later it had become dull. The one aspect she still really enjoyed was training people on the new work-flow systems. She thought about what her next step might be. Before joining State Street, Roggeveen had earned her MBA; during that time, a professor had suggested she consider a PhD and teaching. She knew she liked teaching from the training sessions she led at her current job. “I called that faculty member and said, ‘Can we have dinner? I’d love to chat with you,’” recalls Roggeveen. “He was a huge influence.”

During dinner and in ensuing conversations, they talked about what it means to be a business professor. The word fun came up a lot, and Roggeveen decided to apply to programs and “see what happens.” She was accepted to Columbia University and has never looked back. The combination of teaching and conducting research has been a perfect fit for her. “I love interacting with students. I love interacting with businesses,” says the associate professor of marketing. “I’m very self-directed in what I get to research, so when something intrigues me, I can do it. All these different interests of mine have come together.”

Much of Roggeveen’s research, while earning her PhD and afterward, has focused on consumer behavior, or “the psychology of how people think,” she says. In her undergraduate years, Roggeveen majored in math but also took a number of psychology courses, both of which prepared her well for these explorations. Recently, some of her findings were published in the Journal of Marketing Research. She and a colleague had examined how the relationship among numbers in promotional offers, such as from Groupon, impact people’s purchasing intentions. Turns out most people are attracted to offers containing numbers that are related to each other in some way. So a deal with a regular price of $99, a sales price of $33, and a savings of $66 will receive more interest than a deal with a regular price of $101, a sales price of $29, and a savings of $72, even though the latter offer is a better deal.

Discovering how people think and process information captivates Roggeveen, who often concentrates on pricing, retailing, and services in her investigations. But conducting research is only half of her passion. She equally enjoys being in the classroom, encouraging her students to test ideas and think in new ways. “Babson is wonderful because both teaching and research are respected and appreciated,” says Roggeveen. “And Babson students are so motivated. They want to learn. They’re engaged—I never have a problem creating class discussions.”

Roggeveen teaches marketing research to undergraduate and graduate students, but this semester she also began offering a new course she developed on “Marketing Innovation and Experimentations.” The idea for the course came about after a Babson faculty meeting. “There was a presentation on business analytics, and one of the components was experimentation,” says Roggeveen. “So I asked the question, ‘Where do students get experimentation?’ because it was one of the key tenets of the presentation. After the meeting, [accounting professor] Bob Halsey came up to me and said it would be great if I could develop a course on marketing experiments for undergrads.”

Intrigued, Roggeveen asked for some time to delve into the idea. She soon realized no courses or books on the subject were available from which to build the class. “It was really developing it from scratch,” she says, “and I thought, ‘You know, that would be interesting.’” So she spent the summer pulling it together.

The class itself is a bit of an experiment, says Roggeveen, who considers its students her partners for the semester. “Some things are going to work,” she says, “and some things aren’t.” In the class, she asks students to try something they’ve never done before and then reflect on the experience. She introduces different approaches to the creative process and examines with students what works, what doesn’t, and why. She presents examples of companies that tried certain paths, failed, and then tried another approach, and she helps students absorb lessons from the process. She asks students to take control of a class, researching and teaching certain concepts, and she has them conduct their own experiments.

The lessons learned from experiments apply to more than just business, says Roggeveen. “Life happens,” she says. “You go along the path, and you reflect back. What did I enjoy?” Use those insights, she counsels, to make future decisions. She tries to relate this to students, who she says sometimes are so focused already on what they want to do that they’re not open to unexplored paths. Or, conversely, students will come into her office worried because they haven’t figured out their future yet. “I tell them, that’s fine. Take your time. Find out what you like and what you don’t like, and think about how you can apply that going forward,” she says. “That’s pretty much how I’ve lived, and it’s worked really nicely.”