Howard E. Aldrich

Evolutionary theorist studying the emergence of organizations and industries

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Education Management
  1. University of North Carolina, Department of Sociology,
  2. Kenan-Flagler Business School,
  3. Fuqua School of Business
  1. eePulse, Inc.,
  2. OpenMind Publishing Group, Inc.,
  1. University of Michigan
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Experienced social science researcher and educator with a passionate interest in entrepreneurship, evolutionary theory, and college teaching.

Specialties:Creation & composition of entrepreneurial teams, small business start-up and survival rates, active learning, creating in-classroom learning opportunities


Kenan Professor

University of North Carolina, Department of Sociology
– Present (32 years 3 months)Chapel Hill, North Carolina

I became chair in 2003. Responsible for leading a department of 27 professors, 4 staff, & a quarterly journal (with 2 staff), with 85 graduate students & approximately 400 undergraduate majors.I stepped down on June 20, 2014. I am now just a regular chaired professor!

Adjunct Professor of Management, Entrepreneurship & Strategy

Kenan-Flagler Business School
– Present (32 years 4 months)

I teach a required course for the PhD students in organization theory, from an evolutionary point of view.

Faculty Research Associate

Fuqua School of Business
– Present (6 years 3 months)

Duke Strategy is dedicated to advancing strategy scholarship and practice through world-class research and teaching. We are committed to the advancement of the discipline of strategy scholarship though rigorous research. We are committed to the advancement of business practice by addressing real-world problems and issues through our scholarship. We are committed to excellence in the classroom and to creating future business leaders. Finally, we are committed to the education of the next generation of leading strategy scholars and educators through our PhD program.

Scientific Advisory Board Member

– Present (2 years)Columbus, Ohio Area

Work with the CEO and other board members to improve the usefulness of Facio's product/services.


Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge
– Present (3 years 4 months)Cambridge, United Kingdom

Conducted research on organizations and entrepreneurship while serving as a visiting scholar at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University.

Advisory Board Member

eePulse, Inc.
(7 years 2 months)

eePulse delivers technology & research consulting services that support effective human resource management.

Advisory Board Member

OpenMind Publishing Group, Inc.
(1 year)

Attempted to bring textbook publishing to the web by incorporating an open source model. Offered professors the ability to create personalized textbooks & integrated teaching aids for free. Although this venture failed, Lulu Publishing arose from its ashes (I am not associated with Lulu Publishing).

Advisory Board Member
(8 months)

Venture was formed to provide a wide range of business services to startups, from financing to marketing to management. It was the right idea at the wrong time, perhaps. It did not survive.

Advisory Board Member

(1 year 3 months)

Firm was founded to sell fine jewelry over the Internet, but when that model failed, switched to trade shows. That model failed, too!

Visiting Professor

Keio University
(1 year)

I taught a course on entrepreneurship.

Associate Editor

Administrative Science Quarterly
(10 years 1 month)

I started as the sole Associate Ed when Tom Lodahl was Editor. I handled all the "macro" stuff & Tom handled the "micro" stuff. This division of labor continued when Karl Weick became editor. But, when Lou Pondy joined as the other Assoc Ed, and then was succeeded by Gerry Salancik, my responsibilities became a bit more diffuse. After I moved to UNC-CH in 1982, I kept the job for two more years.


Cornell University
(13 years)

Joint appointment in Industrial & Labor Relations, Sociology, and the School of Business.

Volunteer Experience & Causes

Fishing coach

Project Healing Waters
Social Services

Helping veterans learn how to fly fish.

Opportunities Howard E. is looking for:

Causes Howard E. cares about:

Organizations Howard E. supports:


Democratizing Access to Entrepreneurship: Makerspaces

– Present

Field work in maker spaces around the world.

Honors & Awards

Lifetime Achievement Award

Babson College Entrepreneurship Conference

UNC sociologist Howard Aldrich has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference for his many contributions to the field of entrepreneurship research.

Aldrich is the Kenan Professor and chair of the department of sociology in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and an adjunct professor of management, entrepreneurship and strategy at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Founded in 1981, the Babson conference is the premier entrepreneurship research conference in the world. The conference was established to provide a venue where academics and real-world practitioners could link theory and practice. Each year, the conference (held this year in Lyon, France) attracts more than 350 entrepreneurial scholars.

Additional Honors & Awards

American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow; Academy of Management Best Book Published in Management Award (in 2000);Favorite Professor Award from Senior Class, 1994; UNC-CH,Entrepreneurship Researcher of the Year Award, Swedish Foundation of Small Business Research, 2000; Career Achievement Award, Organization and Management Theory Division, Academy of Management, August, 2000; Max Weber Award for Best Book, American Sociological Association, Section on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, 2000;J. Carlyle Sitterson Freshman Teaching Award, 2002, UNC-CH;


University of Michigan

  • Bill Gamson's seminar in political sociology
  • Consumer behavior, taught by George Katona
  • Political analysis, taught by Phil Converse
  • Political sociology, taught by Bill Gamson
  • Social Theory, taught by Werner Landecker
  • Social psychology of organizations, taught by Dan Katz
  • Complex organizations, taught by Ed Laumann

Bowling Green State University

  • Sociology, taught by Ed Neal
  • Psychology, taught by Robert Guion
  • Philiosophy, taught by Sherm Stanage


An Evolutionary Approach to Entrepreneurship: Selected Essays by Howard E. Aldrich(Link)

Edward Elgar: Cheltenham, UK
January 2011

This book draws together Howard Aldrich's key contribution to entrepreneurship research over recent decades. In an original introduction, the author first lays out the evolutionary approach, examining the assumptions and principles of 'selection logic' that drive evolutionary explanations. The book then expands on evolutionary theory as applied to entrepreneurship, emphasizing the role of historical and comparative analysis before focusing on the importance of social networks, particularly as they affect the genesis of entrepreneurial teams. Professor Aldrich takes a strategic approach to the creation of new organizational populations and communities, using examples from the commercialization of the Internet and the collapse of the Internet bubble. The book then presents his contributions to gender and family, offering a 'family embeddedness' perspective before focusing on the implications of entrepreneurship for stratification and inequality in modern societies, combining an evolutionary with a life course perspective. Finally, he concludes the book with another original essay, reflecting on future directions for entrepreneurship research.

This mix of groundbreaking papers that introduced new concepts into the entrepreneurship literature will prove invaluable to scholars - graduate students and faculty members - interested in research on entrepreneurship. Professors of entrepreneurship and strategy as well as academics teaching organizational sociology courses will also find plenty of invaluable information in this important resource.

To receive a 10% discount, go to Elgar's site:


Organizations Evolving, 2nd edition(Link)

London, UK
September 2006

"Howard Aldrich and Martin Ruef’s tour de force shows us how the evolutionary approach can explain change not only in organizational populations, but within sectors and within organizations. Aldrich and Ruef display an astonishing command of the management literature, using vivid illustrations from cutting edge research to show how the processes of variation, selection, retention, and struggle operate within organizations and across them. A lucid and engaging book that should appeal both to the newcomer to organization theory and to the old pro."
- Frank Dobbin, Harvard University, from review


Organizations Evolving, 1st edition(Link)

July 1999

This book is a synthesis of the major organizational paradigms under the umbrella of evolutionary theory. Advanced students and junior scholars can use it as a guide to the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches, as well as an excellent review of the best recent empirical research on organizations. The book combines, synthesizes, and reinterprets research from many different disciplines and paradigms, placing them under an evolutionary rubric. It uses a variation-selection-retention scheme to organize questions and suggest implications, showing how complex relational structures are constructed out of simpler ones. It weaves together a theory using the main ideas and findings not only of ecologists but also of institutional, interpretive, learning, resource dependence, network, and transaction cost theories. It builds a sophisticated evolutionary theory by co-opting ideas and findings from many related fields.

Organizations and Environments(Link)

Prentice Hall/Amazon Create Space. Re-issued in 2007 by Stanford University Press in its "Stanford Business Classics" series.
January 1979

When Organizations and Environments was originally issued in 1979, it increased interest in evolutionary explanations of organizational change. Since then, scholars and practitioners have widely cited the book for its innovative answer to this question: Under what conditions do organizations change?

Aldrich achieves theoretical integration across 13 chapters by using an evolutionary model that captures the essential features of relations between organizations and their environments. This model explains organizational change by focusing on the processes of variation, selection, retention, and struggle. The "environment," as conceived by Aldrich, does not refer simply to elements "out there"—beyond a set of focal organizations—but rather to concentrations of resources, power, political domination, and most concretely, other organizations.

Scholars using Aldrich's model have examined the societal context within which founders create organizations and whether those organizations survive or fail, rise to prominence, or sink into obscurity.

A preface to the reprinted edition frames the utility of this classic for tomorrow's researchers and businesspeople

Ethnic Entrepreneurs: Immigrant Businesses in Industrial Societies(Link)

Sage/Re-issued by the author through Amazon Create Space Publishing
January 1990

This book provides an analytic framework for understanding how similar & different cultural, political, and economic characteristics of immigrants & of the industrial societies in which they settle influence the development & transformation of immigrant small busines.


Social Capital and Entrepreneurship(Link)

Now Publishers Inc
May 2005

Social Capital and Entrepreneurship provides a critical review of the concepts and principles of social capital and social networks as applied to entrepreneurship. The authors examine interesting research questions and offer a toolbox of methods to answer them. First, a popular new website, Friendster, is used to show the potential power of social capital accessed via social networks. Unfortunately, the potential of social networks often cannot be realized because of various socio-cultural constraints. Taking account of these constraints, the authors offer three empirical generalizations about social networks and show how the concepts of homophily, social boundaries, and bounded rationality provide a framework for understanding the observations. In reviewing these generalizations, well established theoretical contributions and empirical findings from the social capital and social networks literatures are provided to help the reader understand these concepts. Throughout the text, various research designs are explained for studying social networks, as well as the issues around their use. Social Capital and Entrepreneurship concludes by examining the tension between the properties of social networks used in entrepreneurship researchers' models and the limited perspective on networks available to practicing entrepreneurs. Social Capital and Entrepreneurship is intended for scholars and graduate students in the field of entrepreneurship who wish to learn the basic vocabulary of social network and social capital analyses. In addition, entrepreneurs can gain insight into the use of social networks in practice.


Population Perspectives on Organizations(Link)

ACTA Universitatis Upsaliensis, Sweden
December 1986

Chapters based on a series of lectures given at Uppsala University, Sweden.



  • College Teaching
  • Writing Skills
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Strategy
  • Teaching
  • Higher Education
  • Public Speaking
  • Research
  • Data Analysis
  • Statistics
  • Grant Writing
  • Social Capital
  • Start-ups
  • University Teaching
  • Qualitative Research
  • Lecturing
  • Program Evaluation
  • Fundraising
  • Research Design
  • Program Development
  • Management
  • Leadership
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University of Michigan

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Sociology, Social Psychology, Political Behavior

Majored in sociology, minored in social=psychology and political behavior. Adviser: Albert J. Reiss, Jr.

Activities and Societies: Cinema Club

Bowling Green State University

BA, Sociology & Psychology

Majored in Sociology and minored in Psychology. Vice-president of student government. Justice on the Student Court. Treasurer, Inter-Fraternity Council.

Activities and Societies: Vice President of the Student Body, Judge on the Student Court, Treasurer of the Inter-fraternity Council, Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, Assistant Photo Editor on the yearbook

Additional Info

  1. Interests

    • Hackerspaces,
    • Maker movement,
    • Makerspaces,
    • digital fabrication,
    • fly fishing,
    • jazz of the 1940s & 50s (the "Great American Songbook"),
    • fine dining.
  2. Personal Details

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