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


Book Chapters

Working Papers

Stanford Case Studies

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

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