Spending, Decision-Making & Waiting

Complied by Barry List

The INFORMS archive of podcasts continues to offer provocative conversation with leading O.R. practitioners and thinkers. The latest podcasts include a forecast of the American presidential elections with Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois, INFORMS’ National Science Foundation liaison. Professor Jacobson also wrote an article on the same topic for this issue of OR/MS Today (see page 34).

Visit www.scienceofbetter.org and www.informs.org to download the latest podcast selections.

Remember to share your news-making research with the INFORMS Communications Department. Contact INFORMS Communications Director Barry List at barry.list@informs.org or 1-800-4INFORMs.

And now, excerpts of O.R. in the news:

How Algorithms Will Help Us Spend, Spend, Spend

“Of course, even banks like DBS, one of Asia’s biggest, can’t afford to pay an individual to keep tabs on all of its banking customers, and so it adopts technology which is growing rapidly in many industries: intelligent algorithms.

“ ‘Algorithms are effectively the new slave,’ explains John Bates, chief technology officer for Progress, a company which specializes in creating algorithm platforms for a wide range of businesses.

“He says that in an ideal world, banks – or any loyalty-dependent business – would be able to offer each and every customer a personal assistant keeping an eye on them so they could target the ultimate offers to suit the individual. But logistically, of course, that’s out of the question.

“They can’t afford that – not even by outsourcing to India or China or wherever the cheapest place these days.

“So you’re going to use technology. Algorithms don’t need to go to the bathroom, algorithms don’t need a pay cheque.”
– BBC News, Aug. 20

Analytics Center Stage in Decision-Making

“Crucially, instead of basing major business decisions on intuition, they need to mine the data and information at their disposal to drive rapid decision making.
This is why analytics – the use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive models – has moved center-stage.

“According to market research firm IDC, the market for business analytics software grew 14 percent in 2011 and will hit $50.7 billion by 2016.”
– Stacy Blanchard, BBC Business News, Aug. 16

Why Waiting in Line is Torture

“ ‘Often the psychology of queueing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself,’ notes the M.I.T. operations researcher Richard Larson, widely considered to be the world’s foremost expert on lines. Occupied time (walking to baggage claim) feels shorter than unoccupied time (standing at the carousel). Research on queueing has shown that, on average, people overestimate how long they’ve waited in a line by about 36 percent.”
– New York Times, Aug. 18

Dr. Queue on Waiting for Your Train to Come In

“Everyone handles waiting on lines with varying degrees of composure, or lack thereof, but there are some universal rules for what we hate about them. M.I.T. professor Richard Larson, sometimes known as Dr. Queue, described three of them in his famous treatise on the subject from 1987. As Larson’s ‘queueing theory’ makes clear, it’s not the length of the wait that bothers us so much – it’s what might be called the personality of it.

“The first element of a queue is what Larson calls its ‘social justice.’ Simply put, we hate when someone who arrives at a line after we do gets to the front of it first.”
– Atlantic Cities, Aug. 13

Why Men Get Bigger Pay Hikes Than Women

“A new study in the [INFORMS] journal Organization Science finds that when managers have to explain their pay-raise decisions to employees, they give more money to men than they do to women – even if the workers’ performance is equal.”
– CBS News, July 20

Fastest Growing Sector of Cloud Computing: Analytics and BI

“Will the cloud push business intelligence and analytics to a whole new level? Since cloud-based services can support massive amounts of data and provide it in a consistent manner across enterprises, there’s reason to believe that even the most technology-averse organizations will have a way to compete on analytics, just as the big players do.”
Forbes, July 19

Best-Paying Jobs for Women Includes O.R.

“Over the past three decades women’s median income has increased 63 percent, and now more than a third of working wives earn more than their husbands. It’s no surprise when, although they were once discouraged from pursuing higher education, women now surpass men in achievement of bachelor’s and master’s degrees ...

“At No. 1, pharmacist is the best-paying job for women, where they earn a median of $1,898 a week or approximately $99,000 a year ...

  • “No. 8: Operations Research Analysts
  • “Median weekly earnings: $1,326
  • “Approximate median yearly earnings: $69,000
  • “Women as percentage of the profession: 44 percent
  • “Earnings as percentage of men’s earnings: 105 percent”

– Rocket News, July 17

Barry List is the director of communications for INFORMS.