John Roberts

Professor Emeritus, Economics
+1 (650) 723-9345

John Roberts

The John H. Scully Professor of Economics, Strategic Management, and International Business, Emeritus

Academic Area:

Research Statement

John Roberts’ teaching and research involve the application of economic and strategic (game-theoretic) analysis to management problems. His specific areas of current interest involve international business, the organization of the firm, and the connection between strategy and organization. He also has published extensively on industrial competition, emphasizing how informational differences among various parties affect strategic behavior, and on complementarities as a driving force in organizational design and strategic choice. As well, he has helped develop new techniques for deriving robust conclusions from economic models. Most recently, he has undertaken controlled randomized experiments in large firms to investigate the effects of changing management practices.


John Roberts has been a member of the Stanford faculty since 1980, when he joined the GSB from Northwestern University, where he had been a professor in the Kellogg School of Management. Born in Winnipeg in 1945, he was educated at the Universities of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Minnesota.

His research has contributed primarily to the development of economic theory and game theory and their application to problems of economics and management; to the study of industrial competition, especially when informational differences among market participants are important; and to the economics of organization. He is the author or coauthor of over 70 scholarly articles, more than 30 business cases and two books. The first of these, Economics, Organization and Management, was the first text to apply modern theories of incentives and contracting to managerial problems. His more recent book, The Modern Firm: Organizational Design for Performance and Growth¸ was named as the best business book of the year by The Economist. He is the co-editor of The Handbook of Organizational Economics, which presents a unique, path-setting overview of the subject. Recently his research has involved running randomized controlled experiments to investigate the effects of changing management practices in large firms.

Roberts’ teaching in the MBA, Sloan, and Executive Programs focused on strategy and organization, with special attention to multinational business. He has also advised numerous PhD students who have joined the faculties of many of the world’s leading business schools and economics departments.

Roberts has held visiting positions at the University of Louvain (Belgium), the Ecole National de l’Administration et des Etudes Economiques (Paris), the Hebrew University, the University of California Berkeley, the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, All Souls and Nuffield Colleges of Oxford University, the Université des Sciences Sociales (Toulouse), McKinsey and Company, London and the London School of Economics, where he was the BP Centennial Professor. He has also consulted to major corporations in the United States, Japan and Europe.

A Fellow and former Council Member of the Econometric Society, Roberts was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005. He received a honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Winnipeg in 2007.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD, Univ. of Minnesota, 1972
  • BA (Hons.), University of Manitoba, 1967
  • LLD (honoris causa), University of Winnipeg, 2007

Academic Appointments

  • At Stanford University since 1980
  • BP Centennial Professor, London School of Economics, 2010
  • Freehills Lecturer, University of New South Wales, 2007
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005
  • Distinguished Lecturer, University of Pittsburgh, 2002
  • Senior Associate Dean, Stanford GSB, 2000-2008
  • Minnesota Lecturer, University of Minnesota, 2000
  • Academic Fellow, McKinsey &. Co., London, 1999-2000
  • Visitor, Nuffield College, Oxford University, 1999-2000
  • Universite de Sciences Sociales de Toulouse, 1999
  • Inaugural Clarendon Lecturer in Management Studies, Oxford, 1997
  • Visiting Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford, 1995
  • Institute of Economics and Statistics, Oxford University, 1995
  • Associate Dean, Stanford GSB, 1987-1990
  • Fellow of the Econometric Society, 1982
  • Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies, Jerusalem, 1980, 1985
  • CORE Research Fellow, Université Catholique de Louvain, 1974, 1976, 1982
  • Faculty, Kellogg School of Management, 1971-1980

Awards and Honors

  • Robert T. Davis Faculty Lifetime Achievement Award, Stanford GSB, 2005
  • Teaching Excellence Award, Stanford Sloan Program, 2002
  • Jaedicke Silver Apple Award, Stanford Business School Alumni Association, 2000
  • Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, University of Winnipeg, 2007
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005
  • Fundacion BBVA IESE Prize for Contributions of Economics to Management, 2009


Journal Articles

Nicholas A. Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts, Zhichun Jenny Ying
The Quarterly Journal of Economics
February 2015 Vol. 130 Issue 1 Pages 165–218
John Roberts, Nicholas A. Bloom, Benn Eifert, A. Mahajan, David McKenzie
Quarterly Journal af Economics
February 2013 Vol. 128 Issue 1 Pages 1–51
Susan Athey, John Roberts
American Economic Review
May 2001 Vol. 91 Issue 2 Pages 200-205
Bengt Holmstrom, John Roberts
Journal of Economic Perspectives
1998 Vol. 12 Issue 4 Pages 73-94
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts
American Economic Review
March 1996 Vol. 86 Issue 1 Pages 173-179
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts
Journal of Accounting and Economics
1995 Vol. 19 Issue 2-3 Pages 179-208
Paul R. Milgrom, Yingyi Qian, John Roberts
American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings
May 1991 Vol. 81 Issue 2 Pages 84-88
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts
1990 Vol. 58 Issue 6 Pages 1255-1277
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts
American Economic Review
1990 Vol. 80 Issue 3 Pages 511-528
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts
American Journal of Sociology
1988 Vol. 94 Issue Supplement: Organizations and Institutions: Sociological and Economic Approaches to the Analysis of Social Structure Pages S154-S179


John Roberts
Oxford University Press
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts
Prentice Hall
February 11, 1992

Book Chapters

John Roberts, Robert Gibbons, Niko Matouschek
Handbook of Organizational Economics
Robert Gibbons, John Roberts
The Handbook of Organizational Economics
John Roberts, Garth Saloner, Robert Gibbons
Chapter 20 in The Handbook of Organizational Economics
2013 Pages 799-852

Working Papers

John Roberts, Bengt Holmstrom 1998
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts 1992
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts, Margaret Meyer 1991
Jeremy I. Bulow, John Roberts 1987
David M. Kreps, John Roberts 1986
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts 1985
David M. Kreps, Paul R. Milgrom, Robert Wilson, John Roberts 1981
Paul R. Milgrom, John Roberts 1980

Stanford Case Studies

Manish Khandelwal, John Roberts
Gary Mekikian, John Roberts
Gary Mekikian, John Roberts
John Roberts, Jennie Tung
Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Charles Catalano, John Roberts
Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Joon Han, Andrea Hodge, Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Xiao Chen, Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Aldo Kamper, Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Marc Fumagalli, Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Michael Hannan, Joel Podolny, John Roberts
John Roberts
John Roberts
Eric Li, Gabriel Li, John Roberts
Andris Berzins, Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Andris Berzins, Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Joel Podolny, John Roberts
Joel Podolny, John Roberts
John Roberts

Stanford University Affiliations

  • Senior Fellow Stanford Institute for Policy Research

Service to the Profession

  • Fellow and former Council Member, Econometric Society
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005-present

In the Media

Insights by Stanford Business

March 28, 2018
Three award-winning economists talk about where the field has been and where it’s heading.
October 09, 2012
A study reveals that working from home boosts employee happiness and productivity.
December 01, 2010
New studies show that firms implementing systematic management practices improved their productivity by 10 percent reduced defects by 60 percent.
November 01, 2008
Lorenzo Zambrano, MBA ’68, took the family’s cement business from regional player to the industry’s third-largest supplier.
March 11, 2005
Professor John Roberts moderated. Distinguished panelists included John Browne, MS ’81; Sir Dominc Cadbury, MBA ’64; and Sir Deryck Maughan, MS ’79.

School News

October 12, 2020
“Bob brought economic theory to the real world, both as a mechanism for understanding ‘how things work’ and then in the design of better institutions.”
January 17, 2018
David Kreps, Paul Milgrom, and Robert Wilson have been honored for their pioneering work using game theory to help solve real-world problems.
February 27, 2017
A recent two-day symposium celebrated the depth and breadth of impact by faculty member David Kreps in choice theory, finance, game theory, economics.
January 09, 2017
Inside Stanford GSB’s ambitious venture to lift people out of poverty.