Have you ever been reading the news when the solution to the problem in front of you seems glaringly clear? Why can't they just (fill in the blank)!? We asked various professors around Tippie if they've ever had this "ah-ha" moment. Of course, our sharp-minded faculty delivered.
Here is a list of how they would change the world if they had all the time, money, and power necessary to enact their BIG ideas. You may find these spot on or absolutely bananas, but we have no doubt they'll start some interesting conversations.
OPTIMIZE REMOTE WORK
Experimenting with how to manage and mentor remote workers could reap huge benefits for society.
We are living through a historic transformation in the nature of work: while the Industrial Revolution pulled workers out of their homes, the pandemic pushed millions of Americans back into their homes. The last few years have taught us a lot about the possibilities of remote work with modern information technologies, but much remains unknown. This moment calls for rapid prototyping of new ways of managing remote work to catch up with centuries of iteration about how to manage in-person work.
Already, experimentation has identified some management practices that do and do not work for remote work. According to the latest research, hybrid arrangements that combine remote and in-person work seem to attain the best of both worlds in some organizations.
On the other hand, Zoom watercoolers seem to be a poor substitute for in person interaction. Yet, many questions are still unanswered: Is hybrid work a win-win for white collar jobs in most organizations? Can incentives for remote mentorship replace the motivations that encourage workers to mentor one another in person? Can new online spaces replicate the ease and flexibility of in-person interaction?
We need a radical rethinking of work and evidence-based assessment of new ways of working.
Assistant Professor of Economics
IMPLEMENT READYRETURN FOR TAXES
ReadyReturn is a system used in many European countries—like the UK, Denmark, Sweden, and Spain—where the government prepares your tax return for you. They mail you the return and, if you are in agreement, all you have to do is sign off on it.
For 90+ percent of Americans who just have withholding taxes or 1099s, the government already has all the information needed to prepare the returns. This would save Americans a tremendous amount of time, money, and anxiety. Individuals with more complex tax issues (partnerships, trusts, etc.) could opt out of the program and continue filing their own returns.
I believe it could also be structured to drastically increase the uptake in redistribution programs like the earned income tax credit, which would be beneficial to lower income taxpayers.
Henry B. Tippie Chair and Professor of Accounting
CREATE A GLOBAL EXCHANGE FOR CARBON CREDITS
My idea is to create a global exchange for trading carbon credits, including carbon offset credits, along with a set of global standards for verification. This would accelerate the adoption of this market-driven approach—one, among many— to mitigate the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
Currently, there are a number of regional/local carbon credit markets, but these have been limited in terms of trading volume. Standardization of the asset (carbon credits), along with a common set of standards for certification/verification would go a long way in pushing things forward. Among other things, it would make carbon credits more credible as an asset class, which in turn would attract institutional investors, thereby providing much-needed capital for carbon mitigation efforts.
Henry B. Tippie Research Professor in Finance
EXPAND ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE IN RURAL AMERICA
Nearly 60 million Americans live in rural areas. Due to a lack of health care resources, rural America has bleak statistics that include lower life expectancies and higher maternal death rates. While the Affordable Care Act increased insurance coverage in the United States, it did not close the gaps for health care in rural areas.
There are several avenues to try to better these statistics. I propose we:
1- Fund more residency training for medical school graduates. The number of residency slots was fixed for years and is not growing at a pace to supply the primary care and specialist physicians needed by our aging population.
2- Develop care teams of local providers. Fully integrate advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants so they can coordinate care for patients with multiple chronic conditions.
3- Fix the transportation problem. There are few transportation options in many rural areas. Access also means getting to see your health care provider in person.
4- Keep rural hospitals open. In Iowa, Keokuk and many other rural communities are losing—or have already lost—their hospitals. This is a very difficult blow for small communities economically since it affects the quality of life for current residents and makes recruiting new employers more difficult since they cannot attract skilled workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how important rural communities are in our food production and processing systems. We ignore the viability of the people who create our food at our own peril. Money does not create food—land and people do.
Henry B. Tippie Professor in Marketing
CERTIFY THE FAIRNESS OF AI SYSTEMS
I would love to see the forming of a certification body by the government or an industrial association to certify the fairness of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, especially the ones used in making high-stakes decisions. AI systems have been increasingly used to make decisions that significantly impact people’s lives—including money-lending decisions, bail and parole decisions, school admissions, job recommendations, and more. This raises a concern of whether these AI systems are biased and produce discriminatory decisions for disadvantaged groups.
Before eliminating algorithmic bias, we first need to measure and review the biasness of AI systems. This cannot be self-reported and must be done by a third-party auditor. A new certification body could be formed to periodically audit the data-driven decision-making systems used by businesses, governments, and hospitals, to ensure they are fair, transparent, and trustworthy. By consulting with AI researchers, legal experts, and domain experts, the certification body could develop and standardize a procedure for assessing the fairness of AI systems. Just like other products like food and medicine, each AI system would be required by law to be certified as a fair and unbiased system before its deployment.
I expect such a certification could also add credibility to AI products, promote the applications of AI, and eventually increase both the efficiency and fairness of our society.
Henry B. Tippie Research Fellow and Associate Professor of Business Analytics
DYK: In 2022, Qihang Lin was part of a team that received a $800,000 grant from Amazon & the National Science Foundation to research this topic.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT SHOULD START IN PRESCHOOL
I think that leadership development resources should be subsidized starting in pre-K and extending through lifelong learning. Business and society would both benefit from people who are able to create a vision and engage others to act.
Leonard A. Hadley Chair in Leadership, Faculty Director of the Social Impact Community, and Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship
This article appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Tippie Magazine.