John H. Freeman

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John H. Freeman (July 21, 1944 - March 3, 2008) was an American business theorist, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Haas School of Business of the University of California, Berkeley's, known for his work on entrepreneurship, and organizational ecology.


  • Entrepreneurs often are organizational products... The capital required, human resources, space, information, permits and licenses are all provided, perhaps grudgingly, by existing organizations.
    • John H. Freeman, "Entrepreneurs as Organizational Products: Semiconductor Firms and Venture Capital Firms," Advances in the Study of Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Economic Growth, 1 (1986): 33-52
  • Hannan and Freeman examine the ecology of organizations by exploring the competition for resources and by trying to account for rates of entry and exit and for the diversity of organizational forms. They show that the destinies of organizations are determined more by impersonal forces than by the intervention of individuals by the intervention of individuals.
    • Michael T. Hannan and John Freeman. Organizational ecology. Harvard University Press, 1993; Abstract.

"The Population Ecology of Organizations," 1977

See Michael T. Hannan#"The Population Ecology of Organizations," 1977

Organizational ecology, 1989

See Michael T. Hannan#Organizational ecology, 1989

Quotes about John H. Freeman

  • Until the mid-1970s, the prominent approach in organization and management theory emphasized adaptive change in organizations. In this view, as environments change, leaders or dominant coalitions in organizations alter appropriate organizational features to realign their fit to environmental demands.. Since then, an approach to studying organizational change that places more emphasis on environmental selection processes, introduced at about that time (Aldrich and Pfeffer 1976; Hannan and Freeman 1977; Aldrich 1979; McKelvey 1982), has become increasingly influential. The stream of research on ecological perspectives of organizational change has generated tremendous excitement, controversy and debate in the community of organization and management theory scholars. Inspired by the question, Why are there so many kinds of organizations?
    • Joel A. C. Baum, "Organizational ecology." in: Stewart Clegg ed. Studying Organization: Theory and Method (1999): 71-108. p. 71; lead paragraph
  • Freeman’s early research focused on organizational politics and the variations among organizations in the ratios of managers and supervisors to the rest of the work force. Freeman’s empirical studies revealed that organizations in decline have higher “administrative intensity” than similar-sized growing organizations because staffing decisions are made by managers, who might be expected to favor their close associates. The pattern came to be known as the “Freeman effect” and became a staple of macro-organization theory.
Perhaps Freeman’s greatest contribution to the study of organizational theory was an area he helped create with colleague and friend Michael Hannan, professor of management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and professor of sociology at Stanford University. The two sociologists pioneered “organizational ecology.” Together they sought to answer the question, “Why are there so many kinds of organizations?” Their work included rebuilding the foundations of macro-organization theory by emphasizing change by selection rather than adaptation, shifting the level of analysis to the level of the population of organizations, and introducing a focus on dynamics. Freeman was involved in building many now-standard themes including age dependence in organizational mortality, r and K selection, niche width, organizational forms, and density-dependent legitimation and competition. In 1992, the American Sociological Association awarded Freeman and Hannan the Max Weber Award for Distinguished Scholarship for their book Organizational Ecology, published in 1989.