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Untangling Infinite Regress and the Origins of Capability

Hallberg, Niklas Lars LU and Felin, Teppo (2017) In Journal of Management Inquiry
Abstract
We argue that strategic management in general—and capability theory in particular—suffers from problems of infinite regress that can be traced to an unsatisfactory specification of initial conditions. We argue, first, that this has led to an overemphasis on path-dependence, experience and history, without sufficient attention on initial conditions: more proximate, decision- oriented punctuation points that can be used for better theoretical explanation. Second, we show how the initial conditions of theories are often not distinctively different from what is being explained, which prevents theory from providing credible specifications of causal mechanisms. Third, we highlight how the regress problem has led to a relatively casual borrowing... (More)
We argue that strategic management in general—and capability theory in particular—suffers from problems of infinite regress that can be traced to an unsatisfactory specification of initial conditions. We argue, first, that this has led to an overemphasis on path-dependence, experience and history, without sufficient attention on initial conditions: more proximate, decision- oriented punctuation points that can be used for better theoretical explanation. Second, we show how the initial conditions of theories are often not distinctively different from what is being explained, which prevents theory from providing credible specifications of causal mechanisms. Third, we highlight how the regress problem has led to a relatively casual borrowing of concepts from neighboring disciplines, which has created a mismatch between the aims of management theory and relevance to practice. We suggest research heuristics for how to deal with infinite regress problems, to develop more rigorous and relevant theories of capability and strategic management. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
in press
subject
keywords
strategy, resource-based theory, dynamic capabilities
in
Journal of Management Inquiry
publisher
SAGE Publications Inc.
ISSN
1056-4926
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
f7f18242-529a-434f-a92f-3413104b4b71
date added to LUP
2017-08-31 16:25:10
date last changed
2017-09-01 08:33:14
@article{f7f18242-529a-434f-a92f-3413104b4b71,
  abstract     = {We argue that strategic management in general—and capability theory in particular—suffers from problems of infinite regress that can be traced to an unsatisfactory specification of initial conditions. We argue, first, that this has led to an overemphasis on path-dependence, experience and history, without sufficient attention on initial conditions: more proximate, decision- oriented punctuation points that can be used for better theoretical explanation. Second, we show how the initial conditions of theories are often not distinctively different from what is being explained, which prevents theory from providing credible specifications of causal mechanisms. Third, we highlight how the regress problem has led to a relatively casual borrowing of concepts from neighboring disciplines, which has created a mismatch between the aims of management theory and relevance to practice. We suggest research heuristics for how to deal with infinite regress problems, to develop more rigorous and relevant theories of capability and strategic management.},
  author       = {Hallberg, Niklas Lars and Felin, Teppo},
  issn         = {1056-4926},
  keyword      = {strategy,resource-based theory,dynamic capabilities},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications Inc.},
  series       = {Journal of Management Inquiry},
  title        = {Untangling Infinite Regress and the Origins of Capability},
  year         = {2017},
}