Seed Starting the Microfoundations of Strategy: A Butterfly Effect?

41 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2015

See all articles by Rob J G Jansen

Rob J G Jansen

Tilburg University; Department of Organization Studies

Maryse Chappin

Utrecht University - Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development

Date Written: March 9, 2015


In this paper we focus on the development of the literature on microfoundations of strategy. The objective is to identify the building blocks that make up the microfoundations framework. We start from two seed papers, Felin & Foss (2005) and Gavetti (2005), and combine bibliometrics with network analysis on a selective set of papers. This leads to the identification of papers that contain important building blocks and an assessment of the accumulation of knowledge for developing the argument on the role of individuals and their interactions in the context of routines and capabilities. Our main finding is that the microfoundations framework appears to be very comprehensive. It encompasses more than the role of individuals and their interaction which was our departure point based on the seed papers. The results reveal that it is a combination of individual, social and organizational characteristics, and mechanisms that enables the micro level to travel to the macro level. Moreover the findings show that the importance of aggregation was emphasized by the seed papers and most central papers that were analyzed in-depth. There is convergence in the literature that both components and emergence are contingent on the strategic phenomenon or problem under study. The study also revealed that the accumulation did not really occur as expected by the authors. We identified a citation network that resembles a butterfly, a small body in the center and two large wings. It seems there are two large clusters for the seed papers (the wings) and only a limited number of papers that build on the two papers (the body). The field is still legitimizing itself. Time will tell whether the field will integrate and converge more on the specifics of the microfoundations framework and transform from a butterfly into a caterpillar. Alternatively, more clusters may arise due to the study of specific strategy phenomena.

Keywords: microfoundations of strategy, emergence, components, citation analysis

JEL Classification: L21, L10, D21

Suggested Citation

Jansen, Rob J G and Chappin, Maryse, Seed Starting the Microfoundations of Strategy: A Butterfly Effect? (March 9, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Rob J G Jansen (Contact Author)

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
0031134663496 (Phone)

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Department of Organization Studies ( email )

Warandelaan 2
Tilburg, 5038 AB

Maryse Chappin

Utrecht University - Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development ( email )

Heidelberglann 2
3508 TC Utrecht

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