Ep. 177: John List - On How and Why Things Scale, the Power of "Quitting" and More

Today, we look at how and why some ideas take off and others don’t – in other words, how and why things scale. I am delighted to bring to you my conversation with John List. John has been described as a ‘master economist’ and a ‘revolutionary experimenter’. He is certainly a pioneer in combining economic theory with field experiments. John is currently the Chief Economist at Walmart and has held the same role at Lyft and Uber. He is also the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics and has been an economic advisor to the Bush White House.

For the purposes of this episode, John discusses his latest and fabulous book The Voltage Effect – How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale. In it, John argues that scalability is critical to just about everything from medical breakthroughs to social movements. John shares a number of insights from the book, including the conditions necessary for something to scale and the secrets to high voltage scaling.

We also spend some time on a topic I consider fascinating – when and how to quit something that is not serving us. This is one of the secrets to high voltage scaling. It’s a fascinating conversation!

Show notes:

The Voltage Effect

John’s University of Chicago page

John on Twitter

John on LinkedIn

The Khasi people of India

Vince Lombardi

John’s piece in the Wall Street Journal on quitting

The quitting ‘coin flip’ experiment

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