How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale: A Conversation with John List


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Government Business Hour, hosted by Michael J. Keegan, features a conversation with government leaders and thought leaders who are changing the way government does business. The show explores topics such as leadership, management, technology, innovation, public service, as well as the mission of government in the 21st century.


What is the stress effect? Why do some ideas fail while others change the world? What are the five obstacles to overcome to ensure the vitality of an idea? Why should policymakers move from evidence-based policy to evidence-based policy? Join host Michael Keegan as he explores these questions and more with Professor John List, author of The Voltage Effect and economist at the University of Chicago.



John A. List is the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. He earned his BS in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wyoming. List joined the UChicago faculty in 2005 and served as chair of the economics department from 2012 to 2018. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, he was a professor at the University of Central Florida, University of Arizona and the University of Maryland.

List was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and a Fellow of the Econometric Society in 2015. He currently holds the Robert F. Hartsook Visiting Professorship in Fundraising at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He received the Arrow for Senior Economists Award in 2008, the Kenneth Galbraith Award in 2010, the Yrjo Jahnsson Lecturer Award in 2012, the Klein Lecturer Award in 2016, and the Hartsook Growing Philanthropy Award in 2017. He received an honorary doctorate from Tilburg University. in 2014 and from the University of Ottawa in 2017. John was also named one of the Non-Profit Times Top 50 Innovators for 2015 and 2016 for his work on charitable giving. He served in the White House on the Council of Economic Advisers from 2002 to 2003 and is a research associate at NBER, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), a research fellow at Resources for the Future (RFF), and an academic at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

His research focuses on issues of microeconomics, with particular emphasis on using field experiences to address both positive and normative questions. For decades, his experimental field research has focused on questions related to the inner workings of markets, the effects of various incentive programs on market equilibria and allocations, how behavioral economics can augment the model economic standard, on early childhood education and interventions, and most recently on the gender income gap in the gig economy (using evidence from rideshare drivers).

His research includes over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and several published books, including the 2013 international bestseller, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscover Economics of Everyday Life (with Uri Gneezy).


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