Listen to Owen Bennett-Jones discuss the future of opinion polls with Mark Pack

Michael Luca and Max H. Bazerman

Feb 16, 2022

The Power of Experiments

Decision Making in a Data-Driven World

MIT Press 2021

Have you logged into Facebook recently? Searched for something on Google? Chosen a movie on Netflix? If so, you've probably been an unwitting participant in a variety of experiments—also known as randomized controlled trials—designed to test the impact of different online experiences. Once an esoteric tool for academic research, the randomized controlled trial has gone mainstream. No tech company worth its salt (or its share price) would dare make major changes to its platform without first running experiments to understand how they would influence user behavior. In The Power of Experiments: Decision Making in a Data-Driven World (MIT Press, 2021), Michael Luca and Max Bazerman explain the importance of experiments for decision-making in a data-driven world.

Luca and Bazerman describe the central role experiments play in the tech sector, drawing lessons and best practices from the experiences of such companies as StubHub, Alibaba, and Uber. Successful experiments can save companies money—eBay, for example, discovered how to cut $50 million from its yearly advertising budget—or bring to light something previously ignored, as when Airbnb was forced to confront rampant discrimination by its hosts. Moving beyond tech, Luca and Bazerman consider experimenting for the social good—different ways that governments are using experiments to influence or “nudge” behavior ranging from voter apathy to school absenteeism. Experiments, they argue, are part of any leader's toolkit.

In this show, Peter Lorentzen interviews economist Michael Luca about this new book on how organizations—including Google, StubHub, Airbnb, and Facebook—learn from experiments in a data-driven world.

Michael Luca, a professor of business administration at Harvard University, is an expert on the design of online platforms and the use of data to inform managerial and policy decision-making.

Host Peter Lorentzen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a new digital economy-focused Master's program in Applied Economics.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Peter Lorentzen

Peter Lorentzen is economics professor at the University of San Francisco. He heads USF's Applied Economics Master's program, which focuses on the digital economy. His research is mainly on China's political economy.

Learn More

Also Hosted By Peter Lorentzen