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John A. List on How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale

On Passion Struck, I am joined by John A. List, a renowned experimental economist and bestselling author, who is the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago and the Chief Economist at Walmart. In this episode, John A. List and I discuss scaling and how the meaning behind this buzzword goes deeper than just growing your following online. We discuss his new book “The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale.”

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I wanted to translate all of the secrets that we had in those academic journal publications. The rest of the world, like you, is not going to read the academic paper, but you’re going to read “The Voltage Effect.” So at least, we can change the world with our science.

John A. List

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In This Episode, John A. List And I Discuss Scaling and His Book: “The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale

Scaling has become an increasingly popular buzzword in recent years, triggering the attention of everyone, from small business owners to entrepreneurs to online influencers. However, according to today’s guest John A. List, the meaning of the word goes deeper than just gaining followers or growing your client list. John breaks down the difference between horizontal and vertical scaling and gives examples of a Voltage Drop, a key concept from his new book “The Voltage Effect.”

John A. List shows the importance of small incremental changes (often referred to as nudges in behavior economics) and how individuals, as well as many companies, tend to overlook them. These small changes compound, and without them, scaling isn’t achievable.

Listen and learn as John A. List, and I discuss the following topics:

  • The differences between testing strategies in the ‘lab’ and on the field
  • The two different types of scaling and how they affect each other
  • Cultural differences of companies within the same industry and how that impacts their abilities to scale in different ways
  • What it means to be the chief economist of the world’s largest company by revenue
  • The compound effect of small changes and their importance in properly scaling any organization
  • How behavioral economics can aid in making incremental changes happen faster and more transparently
  • John A. List’s experimental nature, his research on scaling, and how he has implemented new strategies during his tenure at large companies
  • What is a voltage drop, and why is it important?
  • The five specific and universal causes of the voltage effect
  • Why we don’t quit enough as a society
  • And much, much more!
  • Have any questions, comments, or stories you’d like to share? Drop us a line at [email protected]!
276 | How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale | John A. List | Passion Struck with John R. Miles

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Starter Packs

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New to the show? These Starter Packs are collections of our most popular episodes grouped by topic, and we now have them also on Spotify. You can also browse starter packs for existing listeners to find your old favorites. Every week, John interviews everyday heroes from all walks of life. Learn how to subscribe to the show and never miss a new episode and topic.

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More From My Conversation With John A. List

During our conversation, I highlighted that quitting is typically viewed as repugnant and asked John, “If quitting is repugnant, why would labeling it as pivoting change the social norms about it?”

The Voltage Effect by John A. List for the Passion Struck book list

John A. Smith explains, “So the back half of the book talks about what I call four little behavioral economics secrets to make your life better. And it introduces incentives, marginal thinking culture, and what you just brought up about quitting. So the fact is, we don’t quit enough. And we don’t quit enough because on the one hand, society has taught us that quitting is repugnant, just flat-out repugnant…

Now, the other reason why we don’t quit enough is because we neglect our opportunity cost of time. Now, that’s a lot of economies. So you might wonder what does this all mean? I did a big survey on recent people who had quit their jobs…nobody ever said, my opportunity set got better by my opportunities, or my jobs were better. That’s because we don’t think like that. We need to constantly think about our opportunities. And when the opportunity is really good, and it’s sure, you quit, and you pivot.

It’s clear from the science we don’t quit enough. So I argue that if we just called it pivoting, then our parents and grandparents and friends wouldn’t be dismissive of us. Because when people hear quitting, they think you’re gonna sit on the couch and watch TV all day.

But really, it’s not that. It’s pivoting from something that is okay to something that is great…So this kind of tells you there’s a lot of anxiety and angst around quitting because society has tricked us. We really should, when we’re agonizing over something, figure out what our opportunity set is. If there are good opportunities there, quit and take a pivot. We need to do that more often to lead better lives.”

Say Thanks To John A. List

If you enjoyed this interview with John A. List, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout on Twitter:

Click here to show John A. List your thoughts about today’s episode on Twitter!

Click here to let John R. Miles know about your number one takeaway from this episode!

And if you want us to answer your questions or you have a topic you would like John to discuss on one of our upcoming weekly Momentum Friday episodes, drop us a line at [email protected].

Resources From The Show With John A. List

Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Passion Struck podcast receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you so much for being so supportive!

Behavior Science Playlist from Passion Struck:

My solo episode on how you unleash your creativity:

Want to catch my best interviews from 2022? Check out episode 233 on intentional greatness and episode 234 on intentional behavior change.

Watch my interview with Dr. Mark Hyman on how to defy aging:

Catch my interview with Dr. Amy Shah on how you can control your food cravings:

My solo episode on why micro choices matter:

About Today’s Guest, John A. List

Passion Struck album cover episode 267 with John A. List on the Voltage Effect: How You make good ideas great and great ideas scale

John A. List is the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago and the Chief Economist at Walmart. He is also the Co-Director of various research centers around the world, including the John Mitchell Lab at the Australian National University, the JILAEE lab in Argentina, and the TMW Center at the University of Chicago. John is the author of the new book “The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale.”

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John R. Miles is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of Passion Struck. This full-service media company helps people live intentionally by creating best-in-class educational and entertainment content. John is also a prolific public speaker, venture capitalist, and author named to the ComputerWorld Top 100 IT Leaders.

John is the host of the top-ranked Passion Struck Podcast. The show focused on exploring the mindset and philosophy of the world’s most inspiring people to learn their lessons to living intentionally. Passion Struck aspires to speak to the humanity of people in a way that makes them want to live better, be better, and impact.

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