John Meluso, PhD

OCEAN Postdoctoral Fellow at the Vermont Complex Systems Center

Systems theorist studying topics in Management & Organizations, Communication, and Diversity as Complex Systems. Primary methodological strengths include agent-based modeling, network science, interviewing, and surveying.


PhD, University of Michigan, 2020
MS, University of Michigan, 2017
BS, Cornell University, 2014

Description of Research

Whether we study product quality, organization design, or diversity, we can best make sense of how micro-level communication yields macro-level organizational outcomes through systems theory—a body of inquiry at the intersection of organizational theory, communication studies, sociology, and complex systems. My research integrates techniques from these disciplines to answer: How do organizational outcomes emerge from communication networks? And how can we leverage systems theory to improve those outcomes? My work uncovers patterns of organizational communication in practice using a mixed method approach that combines semi-structured interviews with surveys. Informed by these patterns, I then simulate how networked communication affects organizational outcomes by constructing agent-based models (ABMs). Together, these methods form a powerful suite of tools for understanding and improving organizations. For example, my recent studies of a Fortune 500 firm used this approach to identify a consequential case of strategic communication in a new product development process that degrades organizational performance. From this insight, my current work demonstrates a novel network-theoretic limit to the benefits of strategic ambiguity with implications for theory and practice. In another project, I show that networked socialization processes create and perpetuate toxic organizational cultures that bolster the glass ceiling; however, my findings also imply solutions for breaking through.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jesse Austin-Breneman (advisor), Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

  • Jose Uribe (co-advisor), Assistant Professor of Management & Organizations

  • Scott Page, John Seely Prown Distinguished University Professor of Complexity, Social Science, and Management

  • Lynette Shaw, Assistant Professor of Complex Systems


  1. Meluso, J., Johnson, S., Bargrow, J. Making Virtual Teams Work: Redesigning Virtual Collaboration for the Future. Working Paper.

  2. Carnahan, S., Uribe, J., Meluso, J., & Austin-Breneman, J. Do Employee Absences Help Managers Evaluate Individual Contributions to Team Production? Evidence from Plant Productivity Data. Working Paper

  3. Meluso, J., Austin-Breneman, J., & Uribe, J. (2019). Estimate Uncertainty: Miscommunication About Definitions of Engineering Terminology. Journal of Mechanical Design.

  4. Meluso, J., Austin-Breneman, J., and Shaw, L. (2019). “An Agent-Based Model of Miscommunication in Complex System Engineering Organizations,” IEEE Systems Journal, pp. 1–12.

  5. Meluso, J., & Austin-Breneman, J. (2018). Gaming the System: An Agent-Based Model of Estimation Strategies and their Effects on System Performance. Journal of Mechanical Design, 140(12), 121101–121109.

  6. Meluso, J., & Austin-Breneman, J. (2017). Gaming the System: An Agent-Based Model of Estimation Strategies and Their Effects on System Performance. In Proceedings of the ASME 2017 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (Vol. 2A-2017, p. V02AT03A050). Cleveland, Ohio.

  7. Meluso, J., Crough, R., & Francisco, K. (2016). Application of Design Ethnography to Identify the Database as a Mechanism of Effective Communication in Systems Engineering. FPET 2016 Conference Proceedings.

  8. Evans, R., & Meluso, J. (2013). Exploring the “how of engineering competence”: Using service-learning projects in an engineering communications course to facilitate the professional practice of undergraduate engineering students. ICEE/ICIT-2013 Conference Proceedings.