Tian Chan

Warm welcome to my homepage! This is where I post my academic work.


I am an assistant professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at Emory University's Goizueta Business School.

I study operational issues surrounding the new product development process. I look at the interplay between design and technology, how breakthrough ideas come about, and when and why collaborative efforts sometimes fail in the development of products and services. I teach the undergraduate process and systems management course at the Goizueta Business School.

I received my BS degree from UC Berkeley, MS degree from Stanford University, and my PhD degree from INSEAD. Before my PhD I worked on technology development at PSA International, a global transportation company.


On Styles in Product Design: An analysis of US design patents (Management Science 2018)

- with Jürgen Mihm and Manuel Sosa

We show how one can identify styles (categories of product design that are perceived to be similar) using design patents. Using this data set we show that (i) style turbulence (unpredictable changes in style) is increasing over time, and (ii) technological turbulence (unpredictable changes in technology) have a U-shaped relationship to style turbulence. We are using this data platform to study other questions (see e.g., "Optimal Distinctiveness Revisited" below). Check out www.stylesinproductdesign.com for the data.

Contracting in Medical Equipment Maintenance Services: an Empirical Investigation (Management Science 2019)

- with Francis de Véricourt and Omar Besbes

In this paper we look at how coordination issues arise in a service context. Consider equipment maintenance - both the maintenance service provider and the equipment operator play important roles in equipment upkeep. However one party may potentially free-ride on the other's effort. Using data from a major medical body scanner manufacturer, we find that such problems impose a heavy cost in the maintenance of medical body scanners. Our results highlight important trade offs that product makers face as they edge into the after-sales services market.

Papers (working)

Revisiting the Role of Collaboration in Creating Breakthrough Inventions (Revision at Manufacturing & Service Operations Management)

- with Jürgen Mihm and Manuel Sosa

The idea of the lone inventor is frequently lambasted as a myth or a romantic image. But is it really? In our study using technological and design patents we find that the decomposability of the invention significantly moderates the effectiveness of the lone inventor. Particularly, tasks that are less decomposable relatively advantages the lone inventor. We also show that lone inventors working on non-decomposable inventions and who have collaborated widely in the past outperforms even teams.

Optimal Distinctiveness Revisited: Using Temporal Distance to Decouple Typicality Effects on the Value of Product Design

- with Yonghoon Lee

The extant literature on optimal distinctiveness has overlooked how temporal distance, as reflected in a new object’s typicality being assessed with reference to other new objects versus prior objects, can influence perceptions of value. We theorize that the positive effect of typicality (a familiarity effect) will linger over time whereas the negative effect of typicality (a crowding effect) is largely contemporaneous. We find that the market value for a new design increases with its typicality to prior designs, but decreases with its typicality to other new designs. Thus we show that the market’s evaluation of a new design depends on the extent to which it deviates not only from familiar archetypes but also from other new designs with which it must compete in the market.

Business Method Innovations and Firm Value: An Empirical Investigation

- with Anandhi Bharadwaj and Deepa Varadarajan

We examine business method innovations that received patent grants in the US manufacturing, trade and distribution sectors from 1999-2013. We find that business method patents, on average, generate roughly 11% more market value (as measured by the abnormal returns around the patenting time window) than other types of patents in these sectors. Hence, the work provides empirical support for the widely held assumption in strategy that business method innovations are key drivers of firm performance in the digital age.

Overcoming integration barriers in innovation: The role of team gender composition

- with Steffen Keck, Haibo Liu, and Wenjie Tang

Innovation teams frequently face significant integration barriers when assembling ideas into a coherent solution. Such barriers are magnified when teams have high levels of expertise diversity or when the invention is hard to decompose into chunks that are amenable to independent efforts. We theorize that, under such conditions, the presence of female team members—and the benefits afforded by their tendency to foster a “psychologically safe” atmosphere—improve innovation outcomes. Using both archival patent data and a lab experiment, we show that whereas innovation teams with at least one female member tend to generate patents of slightly lower market value (than patents from teams composed solely of males), such teams outperform their all-male counterparts when a team features highly diverse expertise or when the invention is relatively less decomposable.


I grew up in Malaysia and Singapore. Love history/fiction, traveling, running, (and now less actively) basketball and RPG games.