The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale
Date and Time:
Mar 2 2022 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Note: Event start time is Central Time (CT).


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John A. List, Ph.D.

Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago

Steven D. Levitt, Ph.D.

William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. Co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics.

The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale

Advice | Behavior | Business | Career | Culture | Design | Economics | Education | Entrepreneurship | History | Innovation | Leadership | Psychology | Public Policy | Science | Technology

BONUS AFTER-HOURS EVENT: Attendees who purchase a copy of The Voltage Effect from FAN’s partner bookseller The Book Stall are invited to attend an AFTER-HOURS event hosted by Profs. List and Levitt that will start immediately after the webinar. Details on the webinar registration page.

Be it a medical breakthrough, a policy initiative, a product innovation, or a social movement, translating an idea into widespread impact depends on one thing only: whether it can be replicated at scale. “Scale” has become a favored buzzword in the startup world. But scale isn’t just about accumulating more users or capturing more market share. It’s about whether an idea that takes hold in a small group can do the same in a much larger one – whether you’re growing a small business, narrowing the national achievement gap, delivering billions of doses of a vaccine, or making a new technology widely affordable.

Translating an idea into widespread impact, says University of Chicago economist John A. List, Ph.D., depends on one thing only: whether it can achieve “high voltage” – the ability to be replicated at scale. In his new book The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale, Prof. List explains that scalable ideas share a common set of attributes, while any number of attributes can doom an unscalable idea. Drawing on his original research, as well as fascinating examples from the realms of business, policymaking, education, and public health, he identifies five measurable vital signs that a scalable idea must possess and offers proven strategies for avoiding voltage drops and engineering voltage gains.

Prof. List is the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on combining field experiments with economic theory to deepen our understanding of the economic science. To obtain data for his field experiments, he has made use of several different markets, including charitable fundraising activities, the sports trading card industry, the ride-share industry, and the education sector, to highlight a few. This has led to collaborative work with several different schools and charities, as well as firms including Lyft, Uber, United Airlines, Virgin Airlines, Humana, Sears, Kmart, Facebook, Google, General Motors, Tinder, Citadel, Walmart, and several non-profits.

Prof. List will be in conversation with Steven D. Levitt, Ph.D., the William B. Ogden Distinguished Professor of Economics and the College. He is the co-founder of The Center for Radical Innovation for Social Change (RISC) and he directs the Becker Friedman Institute’s Price Theory Initiative. Prof. Levitt co-authored Freakonomics (with Stephen J. Dubner, Ph.D.), which spent over two years on the New York Times best seller list and has sold more than five million copies worldwide, as well as three other books. Prof. Levitt is also the co-author of the popular Freakonomics Blog and hosts the weekly podcast People I (mostly) Admire, winner of AdWeek’s Best Interview Podcast of 2021. In 2004, he was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the most influential economist under the age of 40.

This event suitable for youth 12+. It will be recorded and available on our website and YouTube channel.