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Leading economist John List ’92 speaks about scaling ideas and The Voltage Effect

John List
John List ’92

University of Chicago professor of economics, Walmart chief economist and UW-Stevens Point Distinguished Alumnus John List ’92 returned to campus March 3-4 to speak about his experiences of scaling great ideas and shared stories from the White House and Chicago Heights schools to Uber and Lift. [View Photos]

List presented “The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale” to 200 students (March 3) and 100 community members (March 4) as part of the annual Business and Society Lecture Series, hosted by the UW-Stevens Point School of Business and Economics Center for Business and Economic Insight. All attendees received a free copy of List’s new book, “The Voltage Effect,” at the events.

According to List, all great ideas have one thing in common: They are not guaranteed to succeed. But why do some ideas make it big while others fail to take off? List says it comes down to a single question: Can the idea scale? List revealed why every idea’s greatest opportunity—and challenge—lies in its potential to go from small to big.

John List
John List ’92 with UWSP students Jose Vasquez, Nicole Steinmetz and Hannah Gunderson, and Prof. Elizabeth Martin

List also met with students, faculty and local entrepreneurs during his visit to his alma mater. Former chief economic adviser at Lyft and Uber, he is a best-selling author whose work has been featured in most notable national media. According to Research Papers in Economics, John is currently the eighth most influential economist in the world.

John List
John List ’92

According to List, to scale means to achieve a desired outcome when you move from a small group—of customers, students or citizens—to a much larger one. And it’s not just for start-ups.

“Scaling ideas underpins all social and technological progress,” said List. “The innovations that change the world are those that reach the largest number of people.”

“John draws from his findings from his field experiments in providing practical advice on how organizations can scale their operations to ensure their success and maximize their impact,” said Professor of Economics Scott Wallace, director of the UW-Stevens Point Center for Business and Economic Insight.

List, a native of Sun Prairie who was an Academic All-American golfer for the Pointers, was named UW-Stevens Point Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008. He has been recognized as true pioneer in the areas of field experiments and behavioral economics. List’s research spans environmental economics, charitable giving, and education and many more areas.

“List’s lessons apply to a wide range of organizational settings including business, philanthropy, education and community associations,” said Wallace. “We were thrilled to have John back on campus.”

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