Drilling for Micro-Foundations of Human Capital-Based Competitive Advantages

Journal of Management, Forthcoming

15 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2012

See all articles by Russell Wayne Coff

Russell Wayne Coff

Wisconsin School of Business

David Kryscynski

Emory University - Department of Organization & Management

Date Written: July 26, 2012

Abstract

From the origins of resource-based theory, scholars have emphasized the importance of human capital as a source of sustained competitive advantage, and recently there has been great interest in gaining a better understanding of the micro-foundations of strategic capabilities. Along these lines, there is little doubt that heterogeneous human capital is often a critical underlying mechanism for capabilities. Here, the authors explore how individual-level phenomena underpin isolating mechanisms that sustain human capital-based advantages but also create management dilemmas that must be resolved in order to create value. The solutions to these challenges cannot be found purely in generic human resource policies that reflect best practices. These are not designed to mitigate idiosyncratic dilemmas that arise from the very attributes that hinder imitation (e.g., specificity, social complexity, and causal ambiguity). The authors drill down deeper to identify individual- and firm-level components that interact to grant some firms unique capabilities in attracting, retaining, and motivating human capital. This cospecialization of idiosyncratic individuals and organizational systems may be among the most powerful isolating mechanism. The authors conclude by outlining a research agenda for exploring cross-level components of human capital-based advantages.

Suggested Citation

Coff, Russell Wayne and Kryscynski, David, Drilling for Micro-Foundations of Human Capital-Based Competitive Advantages (July 26, 2012). Journal of Management, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2117946

Russell Wayne Coff (Contact Author)

Wisconsin School of Business ( email )

975 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
United States

David Kryscynski

Emory University - Department of Organization & Management ( email )

1300 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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