Information & Decision Sciences Assistant Professor Gordon Burtch shares answers to five questions that reveal the issues he's studying, following, teaching, and reading about today. Plus a peek into the life he imagines, were he not teaching at the Carlson School. 

Q: What is/are your current area(s) of research? What business challenges are you helping to solve?

A: My current research explores various factors that influence individuals’ contributions to online marketplaces. For example, my recent work looks at individuals' creation of online reviews, 3D printing designs, crowdfunding projects and feedback on others’ projects. The common theme here is an under-provisioning problem; most of the things I am studying are provided voluntarily, and freely by individuals, which leads to scarcity. My research seeks to identify when the scarcity problem is most likely to manifest, which strategies companies and website operators can employ to overcome this problem, and how to encourage contributions: whether that means offering financial incentives, or leveraging other, non-monetary interventions, such as calls to action or social norms.  

Q: What current business issues or stories in the news are you following and why?

A: The major issue that I’m following these days is the implementation of equity crowdfunding for retail investors in the United States. This has been a long time coming, with the JOBS Act’s initial passage back in April of 2012. The SEC finally got things sorted out, and online markets will go live on May 16, 2016. Anyone and everyone will be able to invest in private companies online, in relatively small amounts.

I am very curious to see what happens; how the intermingling of retail and accredited investors impacts the dynamics of the online investment process. Ultimately, I want to see whether the crowd will be wise, and just how big an impact this development will have on the venture space. 

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Anyone and everyone will be able to invest in private companies online, in relatively small amounts

Q: What is your favorite class to teach?

A: MBA 6240, Competing in a Data-Driven Digital World. This is a core course in the full-time MBA program. I really love discussing the huge role that information technologies play in our economy and society. It’s really fun to see students’ jaws drop when they discover just how significant of a role technology plays in virtually every industry and every aspect of their lives.

This class also provides many of the students with their first exposure to concepts of predictive analytics and data mining. Again, it is a pretty eye-opening experience for them, and I really enjoy being a part of that.

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I really love discussing the huge role that information technologies play in our economy and society

Q: If you weren’t a business school professor, what would you be doing?

A: I would probably still be in tech consulting.

Q: What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

A: I would have to say “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness,” by Susannah Cahalan