Coffee on the third floor with Professor Emir Kamenica

With one wall covered with a string of numbers and Greek letters reminiscent of a Beautiful Mind and another containing a beautiful oil painting whose backstory is worthy of its own HBS case study on supply chain systems, the four walls of Professor of Economics Emir Kamenica’s office are as multifaceted as his research interests. On how his research has developed through time: “My research has been more scattered than is typical, but over the years, it has become more focused on a particular topic, namely design of information—thinking of who knows what when as something that we can manipulate in order to achieve better outcomes.”  Kamenica has tackled many topics from many angles, both empirically and theoretically: To what extent are politician’s votes influenced by how people next to them vote? What is a good way to structure rules of sports and gambling to generate the most suspense and excitement? Perhaps a topic that MBAs may find most interesting: how does men’s aversion to wives with higher income manifest itself in the workplace and household behavior of wives? These are all topics that Kamenica has explored in his research.

Professor Emir Kamenica

Professor Emir Kamenica

Returning to Coffee on the Third Floor by popular demand, Kamenica describes what he has been up to since ChiBus last checked in with him. “Marianne Bertrand and I are looking at the extent to which the lives of the rich and the poor have converged or diverged over the last half century. Looking at data on time use, social attitudes, brand consumption, and media consumption, we’re asking the question: ‘if I knew how you spent your day in 1965, how well could I tell if you’re rich or poor? How does that differ from today? If I know what your views are about the social issues of the day, how well I can tell if you come from a high or low income household? How has that changed over time?” Perhaps applying his learnings on suspense, Kamenica leaves us with no hints of the preliminary findings.

On the source of inspiration for his work: “most of my work is world-driven rather than literature-driven, meaning that there is something about the world that I’m curious about or don’t understand. Sometimes there are things that we don’t know and I think ‘well, I know how we could figure this out.” Consistent with this, Kamenica spends some of his free time taking courses at the University of Chicago, courses ranging from biology to physics to even a PhD course on Wittgenstein. On being on the other side as a student: “it’s really not that different. A huge part of my job involves going to seminars, and a key part of them is trying to learn what other people have discovered. It’s not that different sitting in a seminar trying to understand a paper and going to a classroom and listening to a lecture. Being a professor and being a student aren’t that different.”

Describing his game theory course as a “baby that needs to be tended to and taken care of,” Kamenica cautions against searching for a short-term application of that course in the business world: “it’s very much geared to MBAs, but we’re also in a school that offers a lot of classes. If you really want a class that has immediate applicability -- as in, you walk out of the class for a consulting interview, repeat things from class, and do well -- you shouldn’t be taking game theory. There are other, more suitable, classes for that. Game theory is meant to be horizontally differentiated from classes like competitive strategy. Game theory has many applications, but the applications are a side effect of understanding.” TNDC hangover or game theory? Take your pick. Kamenica doesn’t feel the slightest bit bad about making students drag themselves to campus at 8:30am on Friday mornings of Spring Quarter to experience his game theory class: “I love teaching Friday morning classes. Sometimes you get people who are falling asleep because they were out on Thursday, but in general, you get people who are more motivated. The most energetic and fun sessions I’ve taught were Friday morning sessions.”

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Araba is a second-year MBA student who enjoys her coffees on the third floor!

Coffee on the third floor with Prof. Sanjog Misra

Sanjog Misra, Professor of Marketing and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow

Sanjog Misra, Professor of Marketing and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow

Sanjog Misra, the Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow believes there’s a marketing evolution underway. A clairvoyant to this marketing evolution, Misra has long established himself in the field of quantitative marketing both through his research and his numerous consulting projects. Outside of academia, Misra has most notably worked as an advisor to Convertro, a multi-touch attribution service. Convertro was sold to AOL, now Verizon, where Misra continues his role as an advisor.

On his initial interest in data-driven marketing: “I started off as a theorist but realized that theory by itself is incomplete. I started looking into ways of testing theory, and that’s what got me into looking at data. Initially it was looking purely at research topics and trying to find data to corroborate theoretical results. At some point, I realized that it’s not enough to simply test theory. Since I’m in a business school, it’s more challenging and more interesting to try and see whether the methods we develop can actually make a difference in how firms operate and whether it can create value for consumers, firms, and non-profits.”

While most of us are somewhat familiar with the role of data science as it’s applied to online, large scale, real time marketing decision making where humans cannot be involved, Misra’s sees this as just as the beginning: “there’s going to be a shift in marketing, and it’s already taken off. One is that we’re going to see humans being replaced by machines and algorithms in what I’ll call ‘menial’ marketing jobs. Anything that can be automated will be automated. Humans will be Level 2—managing algorithms or managing people who manage algorithms.” How can Bausch & Laumb redesign its compensation scheme to precisely align with the incentives that motivate its sales force? If MGM sends you a promotion and you end up staying at the Bellagio, how can they better distinguish those who were incentivized to stay because of the promotion from those who received the promotion because they were more likely to stay there for other reasons? While questions around incorporating human motivation into firm decision making has traditionally lied in the realm of psychology—and in some cases, intuition—Misra has tackled these questions through his quantitative marketing approach.

On the role of analytics in the online world: “Imagine that you have a website and you have 10 different ads created but you don’t know which one is the best one. The old, old approach would be to get an expert—an ad agency—that would create these for you, pick the best one for you, then you would run that. The next approach is to test ads with a randomized control trial, figure out the best one, then implement it. The next approach is to say that ‘we’re losing money. If we test 10 of them for a certain amount of time, we’ll find that 9 of them were not the best. So we just showed a whole bunch of our customers ads that ex-post we know are not really good.’ How do we do this in an efficient way? This is where k-bandits come in. You start with all 10 ads, then as you learn that one is better than the other, you slowly move money or exposure to the few that are performing better—not completely, because you might be wrong. You’re learning about the effectiveness of each and redirecting traffic as you learn. Very soon, you converge to the ones that work.  The holy grail is to be able to do this for each unique individual at scale—the ad, the product, or the price that works for each individual.” The speed at which companies are able to do this is what Misra sees as the axis where companies will compete to exploit revenue.

Misra’s Digital and Algorithmic data course—being offered this Spring—gives students the opportunity to tinker with these issues: “the idea of algorithmic marketing is that every time you have to make repeated decisions at scale, you need an algorithm. We go behind the scenes of how these algorithms work.” Inspired by his research and consulting work, the course explores real-life product recommendation and matching algorithms, while also giving students the opportunity to try and improve the algorithms of start-ups Misra has partnered with. And for any OkCupid users out there, the course will give you a peek at how the website has (or hasn’t!) been able to help you find “the one.”

The beauty of Misra’s research interests is how easily they have lent themselves to bridging the gap between academic research and the pressing challenges of firms and non-profits. Don’t worry, though, Misra has no intention of leaving us. Citing the flexibility in exploring research topics and designing his own courses, Misra describes academia as “the best job in the world.” For those of us who will be leaving Booth soon, Misra advises us to prepare ourselves for management roles that will involve more management of data and more management by data. Whether it’s in the improvement of algorithms, finding ways to use data more cleverly, or the service component of making data-driven insights more digestible, Misra sees the algorithmic revolution as just beginning: “My class is not about marketing. It’s about the direction business is taking. If you’re in operations or finance or consulting or entrepreneurship, you don’t really have a choice. The role of the MBAs isn’t going to change. You’re still going to be managers. But the question is going to be what you’re managing.”

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Araba is a second-year student who enjoys her coffees on the third floor

How the Next GBC Leadership will Make a Difference

Although at the time of this reading the vote for GBC’s next Executive Board has already been tallied, all of the slates had great campaigns and great ideas about how to make the Booth experience the best it can be. Here is what they had to say:

Disha Malik, Class of 2018

Disha Malik, Class of 2018

Disha Malik
Hometown: Lucknow, India
GBC Slate: ABC|GBC Aspire. Build. Connect.
Title on Slate: VP of International Student Affairs

For our slate, it was all about the “F” words.  We heard these issues over and over again, largely because Booth does a lot to inspire connections among students and build a community, but there is always room for improvement.

Funding Access - Find the funds that allow us to stretch beyond our means and do things that excite us

Facilities to Benefit All - have the facilities like corporate headshots or better printing access to help us come across more professional to recruiters and take away pain points from our daily lives

Faculty Connect - How we connect to our award winning faculty

Andrew Godwin, Class of 2018

Andrew Godwin, Class of 2018

Andrew Godwin

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

GBC Slate: ACT for Booth
Title on Slate: President

Our slate focused on three things: Access, Collaboration, and Transparency.

Access - Access to the right resources, contacts, and connections to support and enhance our Booth journey

Collaboration - Facilitating collaboration to embrace our diversity, build on ideas, and cultivate a supportive community

Transparency - Bringing transparency to leadership, initiatives, and decisions at Booth and the broader University of Chicago community  

Dave Mullen, Class of 2018

Dave Mullen, Class of 2018

Dave Mullen

Hometown: Denver, CO

GBC Slate: Simpli-fly

Title on Slate: Executive Vice-President

Our primary aim was to focus on simplifying communication and promoting connection to solidify your efforts and make the Booth experience more efficient for future classes.

Clear Communication - Currently incoming students have to execute on a number of tasks across a few platforms. We want to expand the orientation app to house the incoming student tasks and links to execution in one place. Additionally, we want to streamline the ‘email overload’ problem by working with administration to better coordinate when and how many emails a week we get.

Celebrate Connections – There is a difference between TNDC and Booth Insights. While both events are amazing and have a place at Booth, identification of events as depth vs. breadth and programming around depth based on events is important to us. We want to ensure Boothies leave school knowing a few people very well.

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Kyle is a first-year MBA student who enjoys getting to know his peers

Coffee on the Third Floor: with Prof. Randal Picker

Viva Zhou Ronco, Class of 2018

Viva Zhou Ronco, Class of 2018

Randal Picker is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law and the Ludwig and Hilde Wolf Teaching Scholar at the UChicago Law School. He teaches a class at Booth called Legal Infrastructure of Business. I took the class last quarter and it absolutely blew my mind!

Professor Picker is a master of the so-called Socratic method. You thought you’d understood the legal cases in the assigned readings, only to find, through Picker’s thought-provoking questions, other different dimensions to the issues at hand. The classes were similar to the process of onions peeling - layers after layers, we’d eventually get to the core of the problems. Each week, we'd cover important legal issues in a business area, ranging from bankruptcy, intellectual property to privacy. By the end of the quarter, I don’t pretend that I know any topic in great depth, but I do feel inspired by my own ignorance, and feel an immense respect to the legal infrastructure that’s been supporting the sustained growth in the U.S.

Professor Randal Picker

Professor Randal Picker

This year, I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Picker for a nice chat on his teaching, his productivity routines and his advice to students. I’d love to share the conversations below with the fellow Booth community.

Q: How did you start offering the class at Booth?

P: I have 3 degrees from the University of Chicago. When I was an Economics grad student, I was doing research for John Huizinga, who was one of the deputy deans at Booth. At some point when I was teaching at the law school, John rang me up one day, and we then decided to try a version of this class. From my perspective, this class covers such a broad sweep.I’d never be able to do that in my classes at the law school because they always focus in a particular topic and drill very deep. I love doing that, but it’s also nice to have a class where you don’t do that. There’s no must-do in this Booth class, so I can be very responsive with the content to current event. For instance, I wasn’t covering Uber and Airbnb 4 years ago, and now I am.

People generally found the class very different from a standard Booth course. It has little lecturing and is very talk-intensive. I believe that the back and forth process, what we call the Socratic method, is an important part of learning. You get a wrong answer from a student, that’s great. We work with that idea, shake it, and see where that takes us. Only then we figure out that maybe that’s not where we want to be. We’d have to think hard where exactly it went wrong, as it seemed so plausible in each step! Sorting through that is incredibly useful. You see that while a particular problem can be analyzed in one way, there are 20 other ways of looking at it at the same time. Seeing all these perspectives can be very important when the students go into business or law, as they might find that the “right” method in class might not be the possible approach.

Q: Your MOOC, Internet Giants, doesn’t have interactive component but has very good content. How was your experience producing that?

P: I had students who took both but thought that the real class is a lot better. It’s good to know that what we do in the classrooms won’t be replaced by MOOC. However, MOOC allowed me to reach people that I’d never thought I’d have access to. Thinking that there are some government officials in Ireland sitting there and watching me for 20 hours is just mind blowing.

I took a filmmaking class at the Second City in preparation for the MOOC. All the sudden, you see how telling stories visually matters. It was a real challenge to talk to an empty room for 20 hours and try to present law content in an interesting fashion.

Q: You also worked 3 years at Sidley Austin, a very respected law firm, for 3 years. What made you leave and started teaching?

P: I enjoyed practicing law and had a very positive experience at Sidley. I saw what it was like, liked it, but thought I’d just apply to one place for a  teaching position. I got lucky. At that point, I didn’t know at all if I’d like teaching, but I knew it would be a great adventure. The truth is that I enjoyed the classroom experience more than I’d expected and thought it was a very good use of my time.

Q: How does it feel now that you’ve taught for many years? Were there new phases in your experience?

P: I’ve doing something new in the last few years, that is taking improv classes at Second City. The experience of improv has made me a better teacher, though I didn’t go in there with this vision. The heart of improv is listening, so I am willing to be more improvisational in the class. I consider this a slight new phase. At the law school, I also get to teach in different areas. Every time I teach a new subject, the learning process also gives me insights in the other areas I already know more. These cross-linkages are a source of inspirations and new ideas.

Q: What’s your daily source of information?

P: I have 3 different ways of getting informations. I skim through 4 physical newspapers everyday: the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Financial Times. I use RSS and Twitter to get specialized services, though I only follow 100 people so I am actually able to absorb the information. I also use professional news services like Bloomberg for my research.

I set up my information system based on the projects or research topics I have. Whenever I have a new idea, I will either write down and email myself or send myself a voice mail via Google Voice.The whole point of this system is to divide my projects into storage phase vs. producing phase. I’d constantly generate new ideas from the things I read while I’d also have to focus on the projects that have higher priority.

Q: Any advice you’d give to your students?

P: The only advice I give is that take a few classes that you are purely interested in. Don’t know if this would be useful in a few years? That doesn’t matter. It’s such a special opportunity to get an education in this intellectual environment. You also just never know when it would be useful.

If you want to see Professor Picker in action, I strongly recommend this class in the fall, or you can search for his MOOC, Internet Giants at Coursera.

Viva is a first-year double Maroon who loves interdisciplinary and intercultural conversations

Humans of Booth: New Year New Me

Matt Robinson.JPG

Matthew Robinson (’18)

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

After a litany of failed new years’ resolutions, I have boycotted the notion.  However, my to-do list for after recruiting season includes learning how to make mulled wine, developing a hook shot on the basketball court, increasing my TNDC attendance rate (I have brought shame my Random Walk trip leaders), stopping referring to "flip flops" as “thongs” and securing my dream house husband role (I have got cover letters out there already).

Jenny Spiel (’18)

Hometown: Lake Forest, IL

Well, I'm kind of fond of the Old Me, but I'm open to minor improvements. 2017 will be big for me. I plan to hit snooze only once, travel to several continents, do a pull-up, and watch all of the Godfather films. I say the Godfather one every year, but this year I'll actually do it. I also hope to get to know the Booth community even better. I've gotten to know the people who are in my organic networks (i.e. class, RW, recruiting, cohorts), but I keep meeting fantastic people every day and want to keep it going beyond who I run into on a day-to-day basis. So, if you see me in the Winter Garden, say "Hi" and maybe ask me to do a pull-up. Happy 2017!

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Coffee on the third floor with Professor Harry Davis

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Harry Davis, the Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management, describes being a professor as a career that “gives you a great deal of latitude to be your own playwright.” And that he has. Along with teaching and research, Davis is the founder of both LEAD and the Management Lab. He has also served in various administrative positions, including serving as the interim dean.

Harry Davis, the Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management

Harry Davis, the Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management

Araba is a second-year MBA student who enjoys learning about our professors beyond classroom interactionsDescribing the classroom as his “real home,” Davis looks back at what originally attracted him to a life in academia: “My father worked for Bell. I always assumed I was going to go into business, because in those days, people typically went to work for large companies. So I decided to get an MBA. I remember I was in my second year and I was interviewing with companies, and I had an interview with General Electric. I left the interview and went to a class where this teacher was teaching a class on what we might call ‘soft skills.’ In the middle of this case discussion, I thought to myself ‘is he getting paid to do this?’ It’s probably the best question I’ve asked myself, because I literally followed him down to his office after the class and asked the professor ‘would it make sense to get a PhD and do what you do?’ It was what he was able to create in the classroom. We were all engaged, learning, listening to one another. There were different points of view but we showed respect for one another in the conversation. He was a very strong force in the classroom that kept us on track without having to say much.”

While working on his dissertation as a PhD student at Kellogg, Davis came to Booth for a post doc with no intention to stay. He’s been here, in his own words “for more than half a century.” Attributing the tremendous influence he has had on the Booth curriculum to “a tendency to say yes more often than no without knowing what will happen,” he tells the story behind how he created the two courses that are probably the biggest opportunities Booth students have to reflect on and hone and their leadership skills:

On the Management Lab: “The first Management Lab [originally called the New Products Laboratory] was a six-month project with Kraft Foods. I literally went around the hallway and tried to recruit students—we didn’t have the bidding system then. I thought the learning experience of the lab would largely be an opportunity to have the students learn about marketing—how to run a focus group, how to write a concept statement, how to put together a financial plan, how to collect data—all of which we did. But I realized over the years that the students were learning a lot about themselves and about working in teams while working on these projects.”

On LEAD: “The business school rankings came out and Booth didn’t do so well. And what we found was that a lot of recruiters saw Booth as a place that attracted students that were very smart but that weren’t very connected to the area of leadership and how to have an impact on other people. And I thought to myself, ‘I could take a lot of what I learned from these laboratory courses, and we could actually have students create a curriculum. Then in the second quarter, have students implement it.’”

Can leadership be taught in the classroom without concurrent practice? Davis describes leadership development as a process of translating conceptual knowledge into performance: “There are concepts that relate to leadership that are useful to know, but each one of us needs to internalize these concepts in our performance. Leadership takes place on a daily basis—it isn’t just something that takes place at the top of an organization. Having opportunities to practice and perform are incredibly important. I think leadership requires knowledge—conceptual knowledge—what we spend a lot of time developing here. Then it requires the ability to read a domain: in this context, ‘what is important for me to understand in terms of how I’m going to act in a way that makes people excited to follow?’ It requires knowing what I’ve called action skills, which are the skills of communication, listening, knowing when to be assertive, when to lie back. Then translating that knowledge into actions with other people. Then outcomes—we need the skills of learning the right insights from experience. The other thing that I think is important is asking yourself, ‘given these experiences, what are my values? If I have the ability to have impact, for what purpose?’ The longer I’ve been working on this, the more important I think this is.”

Aptly given the chaired position of “Professor of Creative Management,” Davis sees creativity as an essential part of business. Defining creativity as an ability to match capabilities to an exciting and challenging task, Davis has a suggestion on how to find work environments that brings out our creativity: “write down five stories of times in your lives when you’ve felt creative. Where you had a goal, where there was a challenge involved, perhaps where there was a deliverable. Write a story about what the challenge was, who was involved, what were the dead ends, what were the moments of excitement, and how did it resolve itself. Go as far back as you can. Read back over the stories and try see if there are themes that emerge across the experiences. And these are themes you can look for when choosing a company. A certain amount of patience is necessary to learn a skill, but my sense is that your generation is much less patient. I think the notion of creating structures in large organizations that acknowledge both exploitation of what we know how to do—which requires focus—as well as exploration within a defined playing field, may make your generation more willing to work to for them”

On the future of education: “One evolution I would like to see is for education to not end at graduation. Many of you will be working for five or six companies, you may be working on different continents and you will have very very long careers. The notion that you’re no longer a student when you start working is a relic of the industrial period in this country. I think we need to think creatively about how to equip students to keep learning after graduation and think about how Booth can be involved.”

How does Davis nurture creativity in his own life? Davis has been heavily involved with the Court Theatre and recently stepped down as the chairman of the board of the Seminary Co-Op. A lover of music—particularly jazz—he plays the classical guitar and used to play flute/classical guitar duets with his son. Reflecting on his time at Booth, the manner in which Davis describes his proudest accomplishments sheds light on what outcomes he personally values: “I’m happy that I was able to plant some seeds in a number of places that have stuck and sprouted. This may seem strange, but I love it when other people own them. And when these people don’t have any connection with me but, rather, they’ve made it their own.”

Araba is a second-year MBA student who enjoys learning about our professors beyond classroom interactions

First Years' First Impressions

Mairen Foley – First Year and First Time Business Woman

Hometown:  Glencoe, Illinois

KV:  Hardest part about not coming from a business background?

Mairen Foley, Class of 2018

Mairen Foley, Class of 2018

RA:  My background is in architecture, so a lot of what I am learning is completely new to me.  The learning curve can be quite steep at times.  However, I have not found anything to be overwhelming difficult because I am not the only one coming from a non-business background.  I kind of feel like we have the “we are all in this together” mindset.  It has been very helpful to work through assignments and projects with my classmates.  Additionally, those classmates that have business or finance backgrounds are very willing to help get everyone up to speed.  

KV:  What has surprised you most about Booth?

MF:  Coming in, I thought my background would be pretty non-traditional.  However, I learned that everyone at Booth is non-traditional.  Everyone has a unique story - where they are from, what they did before, or what they want to do.  It has been incredible learning in this diverse environment.

KV:  #WhyBooth moment?

MF:  When I got on a plane with 18 people I did not know to travel to some far away land that I knew nothing about...Random Walk South Africa was an awesome experience.  It was the perfect way to kick off my two years here at Booth – I made a lot of great friends and learned a lot about Booth before even stepping foot on campus.

Ruchira Amin – First Year and First Time to the U.S.

Hometown: Vadodara, India

KV:  Your arrival at Booth also marked your first time to the U.S. – how was the transition?

Ruchira Amin, Class of 2018

Ruchira Amin, Class of 2018

RA:  The first couple of days were crazy!  Everything was new to me – the food, the public transportation, the interactions with people.  Fortunately, I had some time to get settled in before Orientation+ began.  I was surprised to learn how automated and efficient some things are in the U.S.  In India, something like setting up a bank account can take days – there is a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork.  A lot of the processes in India are not nearly as efficient as they are in the U.S.

KV:  What has surprised you most about Booth?

RA:  The pay-it-forward culture here is very real.  I first experienced it as a prospective student when researching schools.  I reached out to 23 Booth alums on LinkedIn and every single one of them responded and was willing to chat.  I was really shocked.  I did not experience anything close to that with the other schools that I was considering.  Now, I experience the pay-it-forward culture daily.  Everyone in the Booth community is so willing to share advice and provide assistance.  I really think the culture is such a unique part of Booth.

KV:  #WhyBooth moment?

RA:  When selecting classes before the first quarter began, I emailed Professor Fama with a question about his class.  I was very surprised and very excited when he emailed back!  Although I did not end up taking his class, I did keep the email.  I tell my friends at home that I correspond with a Nobel laureate.

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Kyle is a first-year MBA student who enjoys giving his classmates an insight into their peers’ thoughts

First Years' First Impressions

Robert Weir, Class of 2018

Robert Weir, Class of 2018

Rob Weir – First Year and First Time Civilian

Hometown: San Pedro, California

KV:  What has been the hardest element of the transition from Army life?

RW: The hardest element has been not being a member of the “tribe”.  By tribe I mean a close-knit group of interdependent people.  In the Army, during every part of my day I was surrounded by a diverse group of people who shared the same experiences and same hardships.  After months on end of being around each other everyone feels like a brother or sister - someone you can trust with your life. Business school is very busy and social, but at the end of the day you head back to your apartment and that social connection is lost.  It is a bit different than what I am used to.

KV:  In what ways is the Army and business school similar?

RW:  Both are very fast-paced and time-oriented, which requires me to plan out the day to meet the various commitments.  Additionally, both involve talking to a lot of people.  In the Army, talking to people is how things get done.  Business school feels the same way.

KV:  What is your #WhyBooth moment?

RW:  I typically get to the Winter Garden early to get some work done, before most people start streaming in from the trains.  Every morning as I am sitting in WG I find myself talking to someone different and learning something new or unique about one of my classmates.  This hasn’t stopped since day one.  These conversations really make me feel like I am broadening my perspective.  It is a really special part of Booth for me.

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Josh Dupont, Class of 2018

Josh Dupont, Class of 2018

Josh Dupont – First Year and First Time Daddy

Hometown:  San Diego, California

KV: What is the hardest part about being a parent in business school?

JD:  Time management.  Business school is demanding with classes, clubs, recruiting, and social obligations.  Tack on a wife, 6-month-old, dog and part-time job…woof!  I am constantly searching for ways to create more time than there is in the day, and prioritize accordingly.  Of course, above all, family comes first.  My wife Lauren is a rock-star and has been incredibly supportive, knowing that business school is somewhat of a “selfish” time for me.  I have learned the value of saying “no”, a necessary evil in business school, but make sure to take advantage of the social experiences and relationship building – which are invaluable aspects of the Booth experience.

KV:  What is your #WhyBooth moment?

JD:  On the bus ride up to LOR I sat next to one of my squad members who happened to be from Russia.  Despite incredibly diverse backgrounds, we were able to connect on a personal level and we will always be close thanks to Booth.  Over the course of two hours, we were able learn about the intimate details of our families, values and upbringing.  It was a subtle, yet indelible memory from my Booth experience.  

KV:  What has surprised you most about Booth?

JD:  I did not realize how valuable Booth Partners and Partners for Little Ones would be.  Both groups provide an incredible support network and sense of community for my family and have been a great way to engage my wife and son Charlie with the other Boothies.  It’s also been awesome to engage with other parents who are going through a similar situation.

Coffee on the Third Floor with Adjunct Associate Professor Heather Caruso

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Perhaps when rushing to class or trying to find the locker rooms, you might have passed a mysterious room on the Classroom Level of Harper Center. In C74 lies the Hyde Park location of the Center for Decision Research, Chicago Booth’s behavioral science research lab. Heather Caruso, Adjunct Associate Professor of Behavioral Science is a name most commonly associated with the Center. Along with her research and teaching activities at Booth, Caruso has played a key role in managing the Center and keeping it at the forefront of behavioral science through her responsibilities as the Executive Director.

Where did her interest in behavioral science start? Caruso takes it almost as far back as her experience in the womb, growing up in the multicultural city of Santa Barbara to a Vietnamese-American mother and Nigerian-American father: “I grew up immediately immersed in cross-boundary communication. It was inevitable—my parents didn’t speak the same native language. They didn’t have the same default cultural assumptions. Neither of them had the same default cultural assumptions as the kids they were raising. From day one, my life had to be a deliberate and explicit attempt to understand others and to be understood. I couldn’t rely on everyone just understanding each other’s perspectives by default, because everywhere I looked, we didn’t.”

Adjunct Associate Professor Heather Caruso

Adjunct Associate Professor Heather Caruso

Keeping those experiences in her back pocket, Caruso studied social psychology at Stanford, while simultaneously working in what “happened to be” a multinational company, Bargain America. There, she began to observe in a workplace setting the themes from her youth—those of communication challenges in the face of diversity. Coming to Bargain America as an engineer, Caruso left as a behavioral scientist in the making, more fascinated with the workplace dynamics than the engineering work she had come to do. After subsequently completing her PhD at Harvard, Caruso found Booth to be a natural fit for her research interests: “Coming here, it was clear that my interest in collaboration and cross-boundary dynamics would be applicable in a number of ways. Initially, it was to contribute to a large-scale research agenda that was just getting off the ground here at the Center for Decision Research, where scholars with different specific interests in the behavioral science space would come together.”

While Caruso prefers not to call out trends per se in behavioral science, she points out that in the modern era, the field is creating opportunities for rigorous research to speak to more powerful and relevant societal questions through innovative and enterprising data collection. Centered around the idea of interpersonal congruence—the ability of members of a group to understand one another as each individual understands him- or herself—Caruso’s work shows how effectively utilizing the diverse contributions of group members can improve problem solving capabilities by reducing counterproductive and distracting intragroup conflict.

Eschewing social psych fun facts or pithy sayings, Caruso prefers to highlight the value of behavioral science to Booth students through broader concepts, like choice architecture: “It offers Booth students a framework for understanding how our findings in behavioral science can be utilized to improve well-being in society. It’s a framework for understanding how social situations shape our behavior and our experience, starting with the insight that every choice we make in the world unfolds in a context, and that context can be influential. We are introduced to a choice in a particular way, with some information more salient, some information easier to get a hold of, some choices easier for us to act on, others not.”

If the term “choice architecture” sounds familiar, it may be because it is the topic of “Responsible Leadership through Choice Architecture” the course Caruso is currently co-teaching with Richard Thaler. As a hands-on laboratory class for students to build and practice the skill of choice architecture, student teams are matched with organizations to help tackle an organizational challenge. Projects range from those where students help companies look inwardly—at, for example, how to better align their employee behavior with organizational goals—to more typical consulting projects, where students help companies improve the choice situations their customers face so as to better meet their customer needs.

If you didn’t have a chance to catch the course, you can bid this week for Caruso’s winter quarter course “Power and Influence in Organizations.”  Caruso sums up the course content and objectives as the following: “The course is about becoming aware of what it means to be in a position of power: how other people can use power to influence us or the people around us; how we can develop and use our own power with wisdom and intention.” And if you don’t have a chance to catch that course either, Caruso offers you this must-have behavioral science insight: “The main thing to be aware of is that all life experiences are architected. Everything unfolds in a context. Because that’s true, anyone who has a hand in setting those contexts up has a responsibility of setting those contexts up wisely and in a way that best serves the inhabitants of those contexts. All of us—especially leaders and managers—will end up with this responsibility in one way or another, architecting situations for ourselves, for others in our organizations, and for friends and family.”

Araba is a second-year MBA student who loves her coffees only on the third floor!

Veterans Day, From a Veteran

Eli Feret, Class of 2018

Eli Feret, Class of 2018

To understand Veterans Day, it’s important to know the history behind the holiday. After the incredible destruction of the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day in 1919 to commemorate the cessation of fighting in this “war to end all wars.” His choice of November 11th is significant – President Wilson chose to commemorate the date when fighting stopped, not the day when the Treaty of Versailles was actually signed.

In other words, Armistice Day was not created to honor a political resolution between competing states, but rather the day that the human beings in the trenches were no longer exposed to the daily horrors of perpetual combat. November 11, 1918 was the first day in years where many began to believe they might survive the nightmare and one day return to their homes and families.  Armistice Day was specifically set aside to honor the people who fought for what was believed to be a new era in a world without human conflict.

War, of course, had other plans. Following the Second World War and the Korean War, Armistice Day was officially changed to Veterans Day, and expanded to honor all veterans who have served during all American conflicts.

It is important here to bear in mind the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day (observed in May).  While Veterans Day honors those who answered the call to serve our country, Memorial Day honors those who gave their lives in that service. For me, Veterans Day is when I drink beer and swap (exaggerated) stories with other veterans – Memorial Day is when I give a silent prayer for my friends who didn’t come home to their families left behind.

Veterans at their signature Paintball event

Veterans at their signature Paintball event

In the tradition of the original Armistice Day, Veterans Day is designed to honor the veterans walking among us who returned home to a nation that was safer because of their service. It’s a day of optimism, of reunion, of purpose, and of continued service.  On Veterans Day, I take time to remind myself of the amazing men and women I’ve had the honor of serving alongside, and to reflect on all the incredible things their military experience has enabled them to accomplish (both in and out of uniform).

So how can you honor veterans this Veterans Day? A lot of people ask me if hearing “thank you for your service” gets old or sounds trite after a while. It doesn’t, but I think people ask me that because those words feel somehow insufficient when you say them.

Here’s a better way: ask a veteran about his or her service. This is incredibly important not just for veterans who need to share our stories, but also for our society as a whole to understand why people volunteer to serve our country, and what that service means.

Eli Feret is a first-year MBA student. Eli graduated from West Point in 2009 and served as a U.S. Army Infantry officer through 2016.

Coffee on the Third Floor- Professor Austan Goolsbee

      Araba Nti, Class of 2017

      Araba Nti, Class of 2017

In the spirit of the upcoming elections, ChiBus brings to you an interview with the professor who has had the most intimate relationship with the White House over the past presidency: Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at Booth. Outside of academics, Goolsbee most notably served as the senior economic policy advisor to President Obama during Obama’s first term and currently serves as a member of the Economic Advisory Panel to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Goolsbee studied economics at Yale under James Tobin, who strongly encouraged him to pursue a PhD at MIT. While Goolsbee’s economic leanings may appear ideologically opposed to the Chicago School’s classic faith in the free markets, Goolsbee, a self-described empirical, data-oriented economist, clarifies common misconceptions about economics at the University of Chicago: “A lot of the outside view of the University of Chicago is about Milton Friedman and macroeconomics in the 1950s and 1960s. In a bit of an ironic turn, one of the main forces fighting Milton Friedman was Jim Tobin, my advisor at Yale. The entire economics field during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s moved more toward an empirical, data, microeconomics bent and became a lot less ideological than it had in the past. While the outside world still had this view that everyone at the University of Chicago was really conservative, and that the fight was still about Keynesian vs monetarism, that doesn’t really describe what this place was like. Most people don’t realize that yes, there was an ideological bent towards markets, but it was and is a place that is all about economics mattering, using it to understand the world, and going where the data takes us.”

Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics

Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics

Perhaps from his college days as an improv comedian and a debate team champion, Goolsbee has shown known no hesitation in developing a public presence to help bridge the gap between the academic and public discourse on economics. He has regularly contributed to the New York Times, Slate, and Fox News (the source of what Goolsbee describes as an “improbable friendship” with Sean Hannity): “I’d always thought that the world had been very good to the economics profession—especially the U.S. where they fund economic research and give a lot of credibility to economists—and that we owed it to society to be able to explain what it is we’re doing with the people’s money and attention.”

Despite this, Goolsbee never saw his term as a cabinet member in the White House as a natural career progression. On how he ended up in the White House, “I had known Obama for a long time. We had a lot of common friends, he was at the law school. I like to remind people that Michelle was more famous than him here. She had a major job at the University of Chicago Hospital. When he was first running for the senate back in 2003-2004, they called me to see if I would help, and it was like ‘you’re talking about Michelle Obama’s husband? The guy from the birthday parties?!’ His daughters and my daughter were all at the Lab School together. I stayed in touch with him and helped him during his time in the Senate. When he decided he was going to run for presidency, he called me up and told me ‘I’m really thinking of running, the campaign is going to be in Chicago, is this something that you can spend time working on?’ And at that moment—I’m kind of embarrassed by this—my response was ‘well, I don’t know, my research is very important. I don’t know if I have time to help you.’ My wife was the one who said ‘you always thought this guy was really something. If he runs and he loses the primary, which he probably will, will you be kicking yourself that he ran for presidency in your own hometown and you didn’t do anything? Take 6 months off and write one less paper.’ Then two years on the campaign and almost three months on the campaign I was working very hard.”

Goolsbee has and remains confident that the 2016 election will be favorable to the Democratic Party, there are economic issues we should be keeping our eyes on: “In the short run, the things to be worried about in the economy are China and Europe. If you have a list of fears of what could go dreadfully wrong, one of those two would be high on the list.” Longer term, what should the country be doing? “I think we should be investing in things to get the growth rate up and to raise productivity. That’s about investing in your people, training in the workforce, human capital. We have to get the educational attainment and skills up in the U.S. work force. That’s how we became the richest economy in the world.”

Does he see cutting taxes and de-regulation as a solution? Of course not!: “if you look at rich places like Silicon Valley or New York City, they’re not low tax or low regulation places. Companies don’t go to Silicon Valley because its cheap, they go because they can’t afford not to—because that’s where the people are. You can overtax and you can overregulate but if you keep cutting taxes and don’t have the money to invest into the things that are important, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.” Describing the evidence that tax cuts don’t stimulate growth as “overwhelming,” Goolsbee notes that Bill Clinton’s tax raises on high incomes earners did not wreck the economy, George Bush’s tax cuts never “paid for themselves” and that Europe, which has some of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world does not have high growth rates. “The argument that we didn’t cut high income earners’ taxes enough in the 2000s and didn’t de-regulate the financial markets enough is clearly absurd.”

On why the U.S. economy has not recovered faster: “There are a group of scholars that say that when you have a financial crises, it takes about a decade to get back to normal because of the debt overhang. Amir Sufi has highlighted a lot of the dangers of excessive debt. A second view says its policy uncertainty that has made the recovery slow. I think the fact that you see this [slow recovery] taking place in all of the advanced countries in the world strongly indicates that it has nothing to do with policy in the U.S. The third group, which I am part of, has the belief that the only way you can have a v-shaped, snapback economy is when the economy can go back to doing what it was doing before the recession began. In other words, when you don’t have a bubble popping. When a bubble pops and you have to shift directions—in our case, away from residential housing investment and consumer spending growth as the overwhelming drivers of GDP growth. We need more capital expenditure, more exports, more investment, more innovation led growth. The transformation has been happening, it just hasn’t been a fast transformation. To me, it feels like we’re not in danger of a recession but we’re not in danger of takeoff either. And the rest of the world isn’t helping us—the emerging markets are in the tank, China and Europe’s situations aren’t helping, so the chances of us ramping up our exports to be a driver of growth are not great.”

Sitting across from a chair in his office with “Bernanke” engraved on the top—a souvenir from his White House days—Goolsbee reflects on transitioning back to Booth “It was always my intention to come back and that was what allowed the White House to be an amazing adventure. A very stressful adventure—the economic crisis was a nightmare—but when it was time to come back, we came back. I learned many things there that have nothing to do with academic life. One was that a key difference is that the standard of evidence is this high and the time pressure is this low and in Washington, it’s completely the opposite. The standard of evidence is really low but it must be done by Friday. It was so nice to be back in the classroom. It was kind of like taking a warm bath. In Washington, in their heart of hearts, they believe that we’re all doomed and are fighting over the last meal on the titanic. And that’s why it can be so petty and bitter. And I come back in the classroom and Booth students are nothing like that.”  

Araba is a second-year MBA student who enjoys her coffees only on the 3rd floor!

First Years' First Impressions

Sakshi Jain (Hometown: Delhi, India)

Sakshi Jain, Class of 2018

Sakshi Jain, Class of 2018

KV: How has Booth surprised you most?  

SJ: Everyone that I have met is extremely talented, but at the same time grounded, fun to be around, and so willing to help out.

KV: Most memorable moment?  

SJ: Random Walk Costa Rica!  We were so close as a group and really bonded through the outdoor activities and late night drinking games that usually turned into embarrassing childhood story time.  I was even able to go beyond my comfort zone with the support of my group, like when I jumped off the roof of a two story boat… Shout out to my fellow Colones!

KV: What is your #WhyBooth?  

SJ: Booth has provided so many opportunities (random walk, small group dinner, LOR, etc.) to meet people before the chaos of classes and recruiting started.  It really helped me form strong friendships, friendships that I know I can rely on if I ever need help.

KV: Living in the U.S. for the first time?  

SJ: The experience of living in the US is so special as this is my first time living away from home - I have already learned so much about myself.  Also, I am finally learning how to cook, although I still have a long way to go.

KV: Best piece of advice you received from a fellow Boothie?

SJ: From one of the 20/20 panelists: “Do things that you want to do, not things that you think well help you get a job”.  This is something a lot of people say, but is difficult to implement.

KV: What are you most stressed about?  

SJ: Getting a job. The consulting and tech processes are so networking focused, which is great, but very different from what I am used to in India.  The whole work authorization thing also adds a layer of complexity.

Greg D’Alessandro (Hometown: Alexandria, VA)

Greg D'Alessandro, Class of 2018

Greg D'Alessandro, Class of 2018

KV: How has Booth surprised you most?  

GD: I knew Booth was an incredibly diverse school, but I didn’t realize just how impactful different perspectives and backgrounds could be until I experienced them first hand in the classroom.

KV: What is your #WhyBooth?  

GD: Random Walk South Africa and the LOR leadership retreat.  Both were great ways for meeting new classmates and building strong relationships before classes got underway. The improv class at LOR in particular was a personal highlight for me.

KV: How is living in Chicago?  

GD: Chicago is amazing.  Coming from NYC I had my doubts, but Chicago has proven to be better on multiple levels - the people, the food/bar scene, the affordability.  I could absolutely see myself living here after graduation.

KV: What are you most looking forward to this quarter?  

GD: Getting through the foundation courses so I can explore more of the elective classes.  I’m also excited about starting conversations with investment management firms and hedge funds to learn more about the strategies and cultures at their respective companies.

KV: Best piece of advice you received from a fellow Boothie?  GD: Focus on the personal connections.  We have a lot going on with classes and recruiting, but we are in such a unique environment that gives an opportunity to learn from the people around us.

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Kyle Veatch, Class of 2018

Kyle is a first year MBA student, interested in people!


Coffee on the Third Floor: Adjunct Prof. Mike Moyer

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Araba Nti, Class of 2017

Mike Moyer, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Booth, started his relationship with the school as a student and winner of the 10th Annual New Venture Challenge. Since then his path to joining the faculty has taken him from the roles of start-up CEO to investor to start-up consultant and investor—from industries ranging from vacuum cleaners to fine wine—Moyer has enjoyed the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship from all sides. At Booth, Moyer has coached winning NVC teams and is currently the mastermind behind the New Venture and Small Enterprise Lab.

Moyer’s roots in entrepreneurship run deep, starting with his first venture in rabbit breeding of all things. “I loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian when I was a kid. I tried breeding rabbits, but it didn’t work at first. When it finally did work, it worked way too well! The next thing I knew, I had 25 baby rabbits and nowhere to keep them.  My aunt told me to take the rabbits to the park, put them in people’s hands and charge $25 per rabbit. I sold them all in less than two hours. I fell in love with the whole process of producing something that people really wanted.” This entrepreneurial spirit led him to start a clothing manufacturing company during his years in college. He grew the business throughout college, eventually selling it. Reflecting on what it was like to start a start-up almost 25 years ago compared to now, he notes “the cost of starting a start-up is much less. Capital aside, basic costs such as the costs of having to rent an office space, buy office equipment, etc. are almost non-existent. Now there are so many more resources available, especially as entrepreneurship has boomed in the tech industry.”

Mike Moyer, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship

Mike Moyer, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship

How has entrepreneurship at Booth changed? “It has expanded tremendously. It’s a well-developed, well-managed program. When I was a student at Booth (2002-2004), I thought the Polsky Center was great, but today it offers so much more to a broader audience.” On whether the MBA experience is a good training ground for entrepreneurs, Moyer puts a strong stake in the ground: “learning to be good at something requires both structured education and hands-on experience. Being an entrepreneur can be very isolating and mistakes can be fatal for a company. In school you are surrounded by people who can teach you how to deal with common issues, and mistakes are simply part of the learning process. Programs like Booth’s allow students to receive a wonderful mix of education and plenty of opportunities for practical experience. “

While formally learning entrepreneurship can minimize hardship, Moyer makes it clear that the start-up experience is not a walk in the park. “In fact,” he says, “difficult clients are a great learning experiencing for students in the New Venture and Small Enterprise class.” He considers the exposure students get to the more challenging clients to be one of the most valuable aspects of the class.

“I learned early on that to be an entrepreneur I had to learn to get comfortable with the volatility of the start-up. When I was running my start-up in college, I would go from wondering if I should just bail out and get a job at a pizza parlor to having more orders than I could handle,” Moyer remembers, “None of my friends were going through anything like that. I sold my company from college and made a little money, but I lost it all after investing in a new business that failed.  I made it all back and then some less than a year later. I’m lucky I married someone willing to go along for the ride!”

Moyer’s entrepreneurial journey helped him develop a keen interest in management and team dynamics especially in the area of creating partnerships in bootstrapped start-ups. Moyer’s current “Slicing Pie” project has made him renowned both inside and outside of the Booth community. Slicing Pie is a model for creating a perfectly fair partnership by ensuring each person on the team gets the right amount of equity. “Most start-ups dole out equity at the outset of the venture based on what they think each person will contribute. Things never go the way people think, so traditional splits must be constantly renegotiated which takes a toll on founder relationships.” Explains Moyer, “Slicing Pie solves this problem by applying a formula that self-adjusts so it stays fair in spite of changes to the team or individual commitment levels.”

Moyer compares the philosophy behind his approach to start-up equity to a game of blackjack: “imagine you and a friend decide to play blackjack and split the winnings 50/50. You each bet $1 on the same hand. The dealer deals two Aces. You can now split the Aces into two hands and bet again. Your partner is broke, so you contribute $2 more and your partner contributes nothing. Now you’ve bet $3 and your partner only bet $1. A 50/50 split is no longer fair, even though you agreed to it. Logically, you should get 75% and your partner should get 25%. Start-ups are exactly the same. When people contribute to a start-up they are, in effect, betting on the future profits or proceeds of a sale. The amount of the bet is equal to the fair market value of the time, money, ideas, relationships, facilities, supplies, equipment or anything else contributed. A person’s share of the winnings should always be based on their share of the bets.”

Today, Slicing Pie is used all over the world. Moyer’s book, Slicing Pie, has steady sales and has been translated into eight languages. Getting the Slicing the Pie project off the ground, Moyer leveraged his background in marketing, a function that he believes many entrepreneurs undervalue: “Marketing is everything. Nothing else matters if you can’t successfully market your product” Sticking to his bootstrapping roots, Moyer started marketing Slicing Pie by developing an Excel spreadsheet for calculating equity splits, disseminating the product and idea to potential customers both online and offline, then investing time and money into developing a software only after he felt that the need for the product was validated. “If I had launched Slicing Pie software before I developed the market nobody would have understood it. Now I have thousands of users who see the value in the model,” says Moyer.

What else is he up to? Moyer has moved toward start-up investing, an activity that he sees to be part and parcel of starting a business. “As you get older, you become more risk averse, and investing is a natural way of spreading out your bets.” Moyer’s current investments range from tech start-ups to real estate to a company that has created a promising fuel catalyst. The sheer range of activities Moyer is involved with points to the fact that the entrepreneur is not a lone wolf. Related to this, Moyer’s parting words to Booth students are “network, network, network. Go on all of the trips and attend all the parties. Taking a trip is a fantastic way to get to know someone by sharing non-business experiences. Also, take advantage of being a student. Reach out to VCs and entrepreneurs. Build a Rolodex of people who you really know. Now is the best time to do it.”

Araba is a second year MBA student, who enjoys her coffees on the third floor!


Coffee on the Third Floor: Prof. Chad Syverson

Productivity is the name of the game for Chad Syverson (pronounced SEE-ver-son), the J. Baum Harris Professor of Economics at Booth. And it’s a problem. Not just an intellectual question to ponder but, rather, a fundamental economic topic that we should probably care about more than Syverson.  

Upon entering Syverson’s office one may look up and notice on a shelf a helmet with an intertwined “N” and “D” for the University of North Dakota. Syverson grew up in North Dakota, attended the University of North Dakota where he played on the football team, and graduated with degrees in economics and mechanical engineering. After receiving a PhD from the University of Maryland, Syverson took his first academic job in the University of Chicago economics department where he resided for 7 years. While Syverson’s focus on the productivity of businesses in particular may have made the transition from the economics department to the business school a natural one, Syverson has also found that his approach to teaching required very little adjustment in his transition to teaching Booth students: “I find Booth student’s ability to deal in abstracts to be really impressive. I feel comfortable introducing a concept in a more abstract way and then tying it to reality, rather than trying to tell a story, then trying to squeeze it into a more general concept. I find that harder to explain than just clearing away all the clouds, getting the simple model down, then talking about how it fits the real world with all of the squishiness around its edges.”

Professor Chad Syverson

Professor Chad Syverson

Why productivity?  “My interest in productivity was almost surely from my experience in engineering. The reason why I wanted to be an engineer is because I liked exploring why things work, why things broke, why parts go together, why they don’t. But then instead of thinking of this in terms of a machine, think of this in terms of a company: why is this company that I’m working at messed up or not messed up? Why is this division ‘misbehaving” ? Why does this division seem to work? Why do these companies do what they do well, while these other companies making the same product can’t get it right? It was trying to understand this that got me interested in productivity.” While Syverson’s approach to productivity is rooted in the study of individual businesses, he describes it as more outward looking than an operations perspective, which would stop at the boundaries of the firm. Syverson notes that this direction of his research coincided with a movement in the economic literature towards a look into productivity at a company, plant, or even product line level, rather than an aggregate or industry level.

Perhaps important enough to be an adage for business school students, Syverson proclaims “productivity is the speed limit of the economy.” Economic growth in the long run can’t go up faster than productivity growth and Syverson sees the current state of productivity to be a problem. “Productivity growth has slowed down. It has slowed down in the past 10 years and no one knows why. One idea—which I have spent some time doing research on—is that it hasn’t slowed down and we just can’t measure it anymore. The short of the argument is that we’re not really paying for all of these great things like Google and facebook and snapchat and GPS. The problem is that if you’re not paying for it, then it isn’t showing up in GDP. If that becomes a bigger and bigger part of our lives, economic growth is continuing but it isn’t being captured in our GDP. So I looked at this—in four different ways—and found that no matter how you look at it, the story doesn’t really add up, not enough to explain the extent to which economic growth has slowed down.”

While productivity is still increasing, it is increasing at a slower rate than it has in the past. In real terms, if U.S. productivity had not slowed down as it did in 2004, the U.S. GDP would be $3 trillion more per year—that’s enough to give out $9000 to each person in the U.S. Syverson sees this as a problem: “if you think of any investment—whether a physical investment or an investment in human capital—it’s all about giving up something now for the sake of the future payoff. But if this future payoff is shrinking relative to what we thought it would be, then that could change people’s mindsets.”

Syverson’s solution to productivity sounds like a task ripe for MBAs: “the way you end slow productivity growth is that you figure out new and better ways to do things. You figure out how to make new products that people are willing to pay for or you figure out how to make current products with fewer resources. Those are the two ways to create productivity growth. When thinking of new businesses to create, think of businesses that are productivity generating.” Despite this, Syverson does not necessarily look to typical Silicon Valley start-ups for the solution to productivity. He argues, “Silicon Valley’s mindshare is not in proportion with its size in the economy. There are huge chunks of the economy that matter a lot but don’t seem to capture the imagination of students and some faculty in the same way that Silicon Valley does.” What parts of the economy might this be? Healthcare, for one: “If we could figure out how to make healthcare 10% more productive, that’s a year’s worth of growth just by partially fixing things in one sector. Healthcare is not as screwed up as people think, but it’s screwed up in a lot of ways. So it seems like there’s some low hanging fruit if smart people could figure out how to do those things better in healthcare.”

In the classroom, Syverson’s incorporates his productivity studies into his Competitive Strategy class. Dedicating a week to the topic on why it’s hard to be a good company, he emphasizes that the success may not be as formulaic as one could conclude from focusing on successful companies. Having a wealth of experience studying companies that have struggled to be successful, Syverson has an entire course’s worth of content. We can only hope that Syverson will make this the focus of an entire course—he hasn’t gone so far as to think of a name for the class, but he envisions it to be something catchy, yet ominous.

Syverson may not have an exact prescription to solving productivity issues on a more macro level, but he has one productivity hack he wants to leave with all students: “every job has minutiae. Pick a job where you don’t mind the minutiae. A lot of people can imagine jobs where they like the macro or the big idea of. And that’s fine but that’s not all you have to do when you work. So you want to pick something where every little detail, if it isn’t exciting, it’s at least tolerable.” This worked for him: “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind digging around through data and looking at data sets, which is one of the minutia of being a professor. I like everything about econ, top to bottom.”

[Investing] Your Compounding Machine - India

Successful Investing takes time, discipline and patience. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time: You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant
— Warren Buffet
Vibhav Viswanathan, '17

Vibhav Viswanathan, '17

The long term annualized return of the BSE Sensex, the Indian stock index, is approximately 17%. This means that it takes ~30 years for an initial investment to multiply a hundred times. To be specific, the BSE Sensex went from 100 in 1979 to 10,000 in 2006. In other words, a $10,000 investment in the BSE Sensex in 1979 would have returned $1 Million today. A $10,000 investment in the S&P 500, in the same time frame, would have returned about $200,000.

India has an even better story looking at the future and I am optimistic and confident of the country’s future intrinsic business value, due to several factors. Let’s first look at some interesting numbers: 1.2B population, 5% real GDP growth, 300M mobile internet users, <$2 monthly data costs and 5%+ YoY growth in labor productivity. A simple example can put in perspective the economic impact of the above numbers. The total brand value of the Indian Premier League for Cricket today is worth just over $4B (note that this number has grown at over 100% in the last few years). This is expected to sky rocket to over $100B within the next five years.

Sensex earnings growth: Expected to pickup from FY16

Sensex earnings growth: Expected to pickup from FY16

Given the enormous business potential India offers, it should not be surprising that private equity and venture capital investments have been growing at an exponential rate. In 2005, the total private market (PE and VC) deals in India was a meager $2.5B while in 2015 this number was $20B+. More importantly, the fund-raising environment is even better with an expected deployment of $100B+ over the next 5 years.  

In my opinion the most important catalyst of change for India is the new Government. Our prime minister, Narendra Modi and his leadership team, which includes a Booth professor, Dr. Rajan, have stellar long-term track records. Mr. Modi works over 18 hours a day and is known to call for 6am meetings.

Since taking over, there have been significant changes that have eased the operational aspects of running a business in India (Note: India currently ranks 130/189 in the ease of doing business index; I expect this to improve significantly, possibly below 50, within next 5 years). For instance, the ‘Make in India’ campaign enables relaxation of Foreign Direct Investment norms, creation of special economic zones with tax exemptions and access to Government loans while the ‘Start-up India’ initiative for early stage entities provides freedom from capital gain tax for 3 years, freedom from tax in profits for 3 years and 80% reduction in patent registration fee.

Annual PE and VC Investments in India

Annual PE and VC Investments in India

Given such strong economic tailwinds, smart investors should target to beat the benchmark and achieve 100x returns within 20 years. In fact, the top 50 companies have returned a remarkable 300x+ in the last 15 and at this rate of compounding one can achieve 100x in 12 years. I want to conclude by saying this - find a money manager, preferably one from the outgoing batch, willing to invest into India with a time horizon of a decade or more, and start planning your retirement!

Special thanks to Aman Mohunta, Aanchal Bindal and Rob Grube for giving me directions on this article.


Anticipating Spring Convocation: Interviews with Commencement Speakers

Harmesh Bhambra, '16

Harmesh Bhambra, '16

Spring Convocation will take place on Saturday, June 11 2016. Professor Erik Hurst, V. Duane Rath Professor of Economics and the John E. Jeuck Faculty Fellow, will be the faculty speaker and Michael Polsky, founder, President and CEO of Invenergy LLC, will be the alumnus speaker.

Students are anticipating the convocation and so ChiBus ran a straw poll on Facebook to understand whether Boothies remember their past graduations. Out of 58 responses, 45% remembered the speaker, 33% did not remember anything and 22% remembered the speaker and topic. Of course, our spring commencement speakers will improve this ratio!

ChiBus congratulates all Boothies who are graduating this quarter.

What is your favorite commencement speech of all time?

Erik Hurst: I remember Steve Colbert’s at Wake Forest University. He was very funny. Comedians are good commencement speakers because they are entertaining.

Michael Polsky: Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford is a remarkable reflection on the importance of failure, resilience and passion. I have found these to be essential qualities for success in life and as an entrepreneur.

What do you feel is the purpose of a commencement speech?

EH: Faculty speakers are different from other speakers, who have an entertainment or personality draw. Wouldn’t we all want to hear something entertaining? Wouldn’t we love to sit and hear from Bill Clinton or Paul Ryan? Faculty speakers aren’t that. A faculty speaker needs to be true to academic philosophy of the school where research is important.

MP: I believe that the main purpose is to inspire graduates using some specific life examples and lessons. I have tried to use hard work and every opportunity, including both successes and failures, to learn and grow myself. This commencement speech is my opportunity to tell today's graduates my story and offer just a few examples and lessons before they take on the business world, entrepreneurship or whatever is next for them. Maybe it will also be a source of inspiration for them.

What would you like the students to take away from your commencement speech?

EH: A faculty speech is hard because you have to mix several things: being true to your research and the school’s integrity, while giving something broader for the students to take away, and hopefully being entertaining along the way. It is a huge honor to be chosen speaker by the students. This is my first commencement speech and I am going to fly back from London especially for convocation.

MP: I came to this country with just $200 and a few suitcases, but I was armed with a good education and strong desire to do my best. This allowed me to pursue my passion and build a career for myself doing something I love. Not a lot of people get to wake up every day for many years excited about what they do. I want these graduates to understand that education combined with passion, resilience, hard work and a little luck will unlock a lot of doors in their personal and professional careers.

What do you remember from the commencement speakers at your graduation?

EH: I do not remember any of the speeches. I remember being in the ceremony. I won a lot of awards at college and high school – I remember those things.

MP: To be honest, that was nearly 30 years ago and it hasn’t stayed in my memory. Maybe I was too busy with my new business. If graduates remember anything I say next month, much less thirty years from now, I’ll consider it a bonus!

Harmesh is a second year at Booth (about to take on the real world) and also a former Editor-in-Chief for Chibus.


Boothies on Social Media

Campus Happenings

  • 05/09/16:Jon Stewart calls Trump a “Man Baby” during his interview at Rockefeller Chapel!
  • 05/16/16-05/17/16: Booth celebrated Spirit Week with furore - activities included bike ride, kite flying and Booth Stories. Come pick up Booth Swag during lunch at the Harper Center!
  • 05/14/16: The 31st DuSable Conference organized by the Chicago Booth African American MBA Association  was a success on 5/14!
  • 05/21/16: Booth Gives Back, the largest philanthropic event at Booth, will be happening on Saturday!
  • 05/26/16: The Cohort Cup Olympics for Spring will be happening on 5/26 at North Beach. Bring those beach soccer skills on!

Coffee on the Third Floor: Mark Maffett on Hidden Ubiquity of Accounting

Araba Nti, '17

Araba Nti, '17

Why did the accountant stare at his glass of orange juice for three hours? After spending a good 45 minutes talking to Mark Maffett about accounting, his work, and settling in Hyde Park after migrating from the South, it was clear that accountant jokes need not apply. Joining Booth faculty in 2012, Mark Maffett is an Assistant Professor of Accounting and Centel Foundation/Robert P. Reuss Faculty Scholar at Booth. Maffett may be best known among Booth students for his financial accounting intro course. But for those who are interested in pursuing a career in consulting, there may be an opportunity to have a little more Maffett in your life as he prepares to teach a new course with a heavy emphasis on financial accounting applied in a consulting setting (read on to find out more).

For those who shudder at the thought of devoting a lifetime to thinking about debits and credits, Maffett makes it clear that the interesting and more powerful part of accounting lies elsewhere: “The overlap between what we teach and what we research is not as direct as some of the other disciplines. A lot of what we research is on more of a big picture level than the nuances—like accounting rules—that we teach in classes. More generally, our focus is on how the quality of a firm’s disclosure environment affects various capital market outcomes.”

Mark Maffett,&nbsp;Assistant Professor of Accounting and Centel Foundation/Robert P. Reuss Faculty Scholar at Booth

Mark Maffett, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Centel Foundation/Robert P. Reuss Faculty Scholar at Booth

“A paper that has had a lot of influence on the way that we do things and the questions that we ask is one by two economists, [Ginger Zhe] Jin and [Phillip] Leslie, that look at the effect of the disclosure of hygiene scorecards in restaurants. They were able to get ER admissions information from where they did the study so that they could look at the incidence of foodborne illness and other sickness, then tie it back to these disclosures of the scorecards and how that changed what restaurants people decide to go to. This paper seems as far removed from accounting as you can get, but the conceptual mechanisms that underlie the effects of going from having to go to the courthouse to flip through the files for hygiene scores to explicitly posting the score where everyone can see it when they walk through the door is very related to the type of questions we think about.”

Applying this to his own work: “I’m looking at whether the provision in the Dodd Frank bill requiring firms to disclose mine safety information in the financial statement had any real effects. Did it decrease mining related accidents and injuries? If you increase safety it’s going to be costly from the mine’s perspective, so did it lower productivity? I also find that there are very real effects on demand for these companies. For example, if you’re a mutual fund and don’t want to be exposed to the possibility that a company in your portfolio could have a catastrophic mining accident.”

As consumers of financial reporting, Maffett’s message for Booth students “be aware of the context in which you are receiving a piece of financial information and how that is shaped by the interests of the parties that are disclosing that piece of information—the levers they have to turn. Financial information is shaped by a particular party’s incentives in terms of what they disclose to you.”

Maffett recognizes a need for an advanced accounting course that is more reflective of the changing career aspirations of Booth students entering functions that require a solid grasp of accounting: “a lot of the jobs that students are taking are changing. The higher proportion in consulting, lends itself to a little more of a broad of a focus.” Aware that students who have interviewed for consulting have found that interviewers expect more accounting knowledge that what is taught in the financial accounting intro course, Maffett envisions his course to be more advanced than the intro course but more transaction focused than FSA.

Aspiring consultants, help Prof. Mark Maffett help you be more prepared for your internship and full time job. Email him at ( or stop by his office (Room 437) to chat.

Araba is a first year at Booth who recently discovered that there’s life above the 2nd floor of Harper Center.

StartUpDiaries: Making Mobile Apps More Visible on Opaque Platforms

Rikki (Ritika) Singh, '17

Rikki (Ritika) Singh, '17

While a majority of Boothies are talking about ideas in “mainstream” businesses such as healthcare, fin tech and education, three first-year MBA students and a lab school student, yes you read it correctly a lab school student, are trying to disrupt a market that does not get a lot of attention in business school - mobile game publishing. With more than 30 billion global revenue, mobile game has overtaken console as the number one sector in the gaming industry, which China, Japan and US sharing more than 60% of that pie as the three leading market. With more and more saturated market in China, a lot of developers start to look at opportunities overseas. Famous for its mature market and high ROI, US market has drawn increasing attention from these Chinese mobile game developers and publishers. However, unlike most of mobile apps, such as Spotify or Evernote, which essentially look and feel the same, mobile games have many factors to fine-tune to achieve expected ROI across cultures. While app platforms such as App Store and Google Play are doing a terrible job facilitating app discovery and eliciting structured player feedback - a key to understand the success factor of a game - WillowFlare is uniquely positioned to solve this problem by providing a crowdsourced market research platform with a panel of US players.

WillowFlare team is an interesting combination just like its name. The four founders are all extremely interested in the business after Ray Liu, the CEO who built up the initial client relationship in China, introduced the idea. Richard Zhang, the “Jack of all trades” in the team, is helping build a sustainable financial model while tapping into the player base with his previous gaming startup experience. Now both the mobile game developers in China and players in US are covered, they are spending a lot of time to build the platform, where players can play the game, write feedback and get rewarded. Valentina Fernandez is the marketing guru in the team who is exploring what is the best way to get players to add value to the mobile games. Last but not the least,   Wanqi Zhu is the lab school student mentioned above, but make no mistake, he is also a grader for the graduate level computer science courses at UChicago. He is the coder in the team.

A Screenshot of the Platform

A Screenshot of the Platform

Reflecting back to how it got started, Ray mentioned that he went through the whole lifecycle of the entrepreneurship programming offered by the Polsky Center and EVC club. From just an idea coming out of a random conversation, to what is now believed by the team a real business, the resources, coaching and network that Booth provided are truly instrumental.

If you want to know more about how WillowFlare works, why not sign up now at!

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