Johan Chu


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Johan Chu is the Sarofim Family Career Development Assistant Professor and an Assistant Professor of System Dynamics at the MIT Sloan School of Management

Johan’s research examines the shifting bases of social power and corporate advantage. Recently-developed technologies allow low-cost, wide-reach communication, and democratize access to global markets, knowledge, capital, and labor. How do these developments alter the dynamics of social contention and market competition? How can we create thriving, equitable communities against this backdrop?

In one stream of research, he explores the factors leading to the durable dominance of companies, products, ideas, and people. This work not only suggests strategies for dominants and would-be dominants, but also sheds light on the causes of inequality and stratification in society. A second stream of research studies how individuals and companies direct mass attention—and cause a large number of people to collectively attend to the same target (object, person, event, phenomenon, or way of seeing) at the same time. Recent technological advances have made the ability to direct mass attention hugely consequential. How do competitive dynamics change when competition is based on technologies of mass attention direction? A third stream of research seeks to understand how organizing, work, and power are changing in the 21st century, examining diverse settings from corporate boardrooms to gig working to blockchain-based platforms. For his empirical studies, Johan uses simulation, very large datasets, social network analysis, machine learning, and computational text analysis, coupled with in-depth interviews with industry participants.

Prior to joining MIT Sloan's faculty, Johan taught at Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg. He received a PhD in Physics (with a dissertation on Artificial Life) from Caltech and a later PhD in Management & Organizations from Michigan Ross. In the 12 years between PhD programs, Johan consulted for clients in the United States, Korea, and China; led two enterprise software ventures; and headed the Asia-Pacific Consumer Practice for a global executive search firm.



"Slowed Canonical Progress in Large Fields of Science."

Chu, Johan S.G., and James A. Evans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol. 118, No. 41 (2021): e202163611. Download Paper.

"A Theory of Durable Dominance."

Chu, Johan S.G. Strategy Science Vol. 3, No. 3 (2018): 498-512.

"Who Killed the Inner Circle? The Decline of the American Corporate Interlock Network."

Chu, Johan S.G., and Gerald F. Davis. American Journal of Sociology Vol. 122, No. 3 (2016): 714-754. Download Preprint.


Chu, Johan S.G., and Mark S. Mizruchi. In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Robert A. Scott and Stephen M. Kosslyn, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2015.

"Stability and Change in Corporate Governance."

Chu, Johan S.G., and Mark S. Mizruchi. In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Robert A. Scott and Stephen M. Kosslyn, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2015.

"Critical and Near-critical Branching Processes."

Adami, Christoph, and Johan S.G. Chu. Physical Review E Vol. 66, No. 1 (2002): 011907. arXiv Preprint.

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