Faculty & Research

Johan Chu

Assistant Professor of Organizations and Strategy

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5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

Johan Chu’s research focuses on understanding large-scale change and stasis. 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. Other streams of research investigate: 1) how dominant actors can change institutions, 2) the changing role of elites in corporate governance and society, and 3) new sources of competitive advantage in the twenty-first century. For his empirical studies, Chu uses very large datasets, social network analysis, simulation, and computational text analysis.

Chu earned a B.S. in physics from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), a Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and a Ph.D. in management & organizations from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

In between Ph.D.s, Chu spent thirteen years in consulting, start-ups, and executive search. He consulted for clients in the United States, Korea, and China. He founded, grew, and sold an enterprise software platform venture, and was later the CEO for another venture. Chu’s final industry position was at the world's largest private executive search firm, where he was the Asia-Pacific Consumer Practice leader.


2015 - 2016 Course Schedule

Number Name Quarter
39001 Strategy and Structure: Markets and Organizations 2016 (Spring)
39600 Workshop in Organizations and Markets 2016 (Winter)

REVISION: Who Killed the Inner Circle? The Decline of the American Corporate Interlock Network
Date Posted: Jun  02, 2016
U.S. corporations shared members of their boards of directors since the early 1900s, creating a dense interlock network in which nearly every major corporation was connected through short paths, and elevating a handful of well-connected directors to an influential “inner circle.” This network remained highly-connected throughout the 20th century, serving as a mechanism for the rapid diffusion of information and practices, and promoting elite cohesion. Some of the most well-established findings in the sociology of networks sprang from this milieu. In the 2000s, however, board recruiting practices changed: we find that well-connected directors became less preferred. As a result, the inner circle disappeared and companies became less connected to each other. Revisiting three classic studies, on the diffusion of corporate policies, on corporate executives’ political unity, and on elite socialization, shows that established understandings of the effects of board interlocks on U.S. ...