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r Academy of Management Annals

2018, Vol. 12, No. 1, 390–439.


The University of Arizona

The University of Arizona

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

Although the dynamic capabilities perspective has become one of the most frequently
used theoretical lenses in management research, critics have repeatedly voiced their
frustration with this literature, particularly bemoaning the lack of empirical knowl-
edge and the underspecification of the construct of dynamic capabilities. But research
on dynamic capabilities has advanced considerably since its early years, in which
most contributions to this literature were purely conceptual. A plethora of empirical
studies as well as further theoretical elaborations have shed substantial light on
a variety of specific, measurable factors connected to dynamic capabilities. Our ar-
ticle starts out by analyzing these studies to develop a meta-framework that specifies
antecedents, dimensions, mechanisms, moderators, and outcomes of dynamic capa-
bilities identified in the literature to date. This framework provides a comprehensive
and systematic synthesis of the dynamic capabilities perspective that reflects the
richness of the research while at the same time unifying it into a cohesive, overarching
model. Such an analysis has not yet been undertaken; no comprehensive framework
with this level of detail has previously been presented for dynamic capabilities. Our
analysis shows where research has made the most progress and where gaps and
unresolved tensions remain. Based on this analysis, we propose a forward-looking
research agenda that outlines directions for future research.

INTRODUCTION Townsend & Busenitz, 2015), technology and in-

novation management (e.g., Cai & Tylecote, 2008),
A steadily increasing number of management
international management (e.g., Vahlne & Ivarsson,
scholars have become interested in dynamic capa-
2013), operations management (e.g., Anand, Ward,
bilities (see Figure 1). While originating in the field of
Tatikonda, & Schilling, 2009), management in-
strategy (Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000; Teece, Pisano, &
formation systems (e.g., Pavlou & El Sawy, 2010),
Shuen, 1997), the study of dynamic capabilities now
marketing management (e.g., Fang & Zou, 2009), and
represents a vibrant research area in other manage-
human resources (e.g., Festing & Eidems, 2011),
ment fields as well, including entrepreneurship (e.g.,
among other areas. Overall, we think it is fair to say
that the dynamic capabilities perspective has firmly
We gratefully acknowledge the in-depth and constructive
established itself as one of the most influential theo-
comments from the Editor Kim Elsbach, the Associate Edi-
retical lenses in contemporary management scholar-
tor Teppo Felin, as well as two anonymous reviewers. We
are also grateful for insightful methodological suggestions ship (see Amburgey, Dacin, & Singh, 2000; Cepeda &
from Bart de Jong, David Kroon, and Nathan Podsakoff. Vera, 2007; Di Stefano, Peteraf, & Verona, 2014, for
Oliver Schilke and Songcui Hu contributed equally to similar assessments).
this work. However, no systematic literature review has
Corresponding author. appeared since empirical research on dynamic
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2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 391

Google Scholar Search for the Term “dynamic capabilities”





Number of hits




1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Publication year
Note: Search performed on June 24, 2017

capabilities started to take off in recent years. Most of not provided a comprehensive framework for under-
the earlier reviews that we identified (Ambrosini & standing the antecedents, dimensions, mechanisms,
Bowman, 2009; Arend & Bromiley, 2009; Barreto, moderators, and outcomes of dynamic capabilities.2
2010; Di Stefano, Peteraf, & Verona, 2010; Easterby- In the current article, we aim to fill this gap by
Smith, Lyles, & Peteraf, 2009; Helfat et al., 2007; Helfat pursuing two objectives. First, we aim to synthesize
& Peteraf, 2009; O’Reilly & Tushman, 2008; Wang & the insights in the vast amount of prior research and
Ahmed, 2007; Zahra, Sapienza, & Davidsson, 2006) to bring greater coherence to the extant body of
cover only the initial years of dynamic capabilities re- knowledge. To this end, we offer a systematic review
search. As a result, these reviews are unable to assess of the current state of the dynamic capabilities per-
the degree to which repeated criticisms of under- spective in terms of its fundamental building blocks.
specification of the concept and a lack of empirical As part of this review, we clarify aspects of research
knowledge (Arend & Bromiley, 2009; Kraatz & Zajac, on dynamic capabilities about which there has been
2001; O’Reilly & Tushman, 2008; Williamson, 1999) confusion in the literature. This review culminates
have been successfully addressed by more recent re- in a comprehensive framework summarizing the
search and to what extent these recent investigations most frequently studied constructs and their inter-
have broadened the nomological network in which relationships. The framework is general and flexible
dynamic capabilities are embedded. Some relatively enough to accommodate different approaches for
recent survey pieces have examined the disciplinary
foundations of dynamic capabilities research (Peteraf, 2
A prominent book on dynamic capabilities by Teece
Di Stefano, & Verona, 2013) or focused on selected as- (2009) is largely a compendium of prior published articles
pects of dynamic capabilities (Helfat & Martin, 2015; by Teece, plus some new chapters by the author on selected
Wilden, Devinney, & Dowling, 2016), but they have topics, and does not contain a review of the literature.
392 Academy of Management Annals January

studying dynamic capabilities without suppressing routinization; (5) to reorient the analysis of conse-
critical differences. In addition, our review of the quences of dynamic capabilities to focus more on
current state of knowledge covers important foun- proximate outcomes, rather than solely prioritize
dational issues, such as a discussion of frequently firm-level performance; (6) to add to recent attempts
employed definitions, theoretical assumptions, and to translate insights to a practitioner audience in-
theory-integration efforts. This portion of the anal- terested in implementing dynamic capabilities in
ysis also incorporates a discussion of process-based their organizations; (7) to pay greater attention to the
approaches to theory development and an overview role of dynamic capabilities in shaping markets and
of the methods that have been employed in the re- ecosystems, an area that is noticeably underdevel-
cent study of dynamic capabilities. Throughout this oped; and (8) to make greater use of empirical
section, we juxtapose the progress that has been methodologies beyond qualitative case analyses
made with earlier critiques of the dynamic capa- and analysis of survey data, such as laboratory ex-
bilities research stream. Overall, our integrative periments and econometric analysis of “big” archi-
review of the current state of knowledge directly val data, to further broaden the toolkit used in
addresses prior calls for continued efforts to unify dynamic capabilities research. By revealing a wealth
the field of dynamic capabilities research (Barreto, of exciting research possibilities, we contribute to
2010; Wang & Ahmed, 2007) while at the same time defining a forward-looking research agenda, which
widening the scope and emphasizing the breadth of can help scholars to build on prior studies in a cu-
conceptual resources available to researchers in mulative fashion to fill gaps and resolve tensions in
this area. the literature, while extending research along new
The second objective of this article is to go beyond dimensions.
current knowledge to identify significant gaps in This article proceeds by first briefly discussing
the literature, unresolved issues, and promising the origin and evolution of dynamic capabilities
directions to address these, so as to offer a glimpse research. We then outline the content-analytic
into the future of dynamic capabilities research. For method that provides the starting point for our re-
this purpose, we conducted a systematic content view. Next, we turn to the current state of knowledge
analysis, in which we coded what prior articles and the findings that recent dynamic capabilities
identified as important limitations and fruitful av- investigations have offered. Finally, we develop an
enues for further research on dynamic capabilities, extensive road map of fruitful directions for future
thus providing bottom-up insights into the views of dynamic capabilities research.
dynamic capabilities researchers about how the field
might profitably advance. We use these content-
analytic findings as a springboard for our own
assessment and subjective recommendations for Before delving into a systematic analysis of the
further research. dynamic capabilities literature, we offer some back-
Among other areas for future investigation, we see ground that helps to clarify the scope of this article.
opportunities for researchers (1) to explore addi- The dynamic capabilities perspective is often con-
tional mechanisms (i.e., mediators) that explain sidered an extension of the resource-based view
proposed relationships of dynamic capabilities with (RBV) of the firm (Helfat & Peteraf, 2003); however,
other variables, which is an area of weakness in the when Teece et al. (1997) introduced the concept of
current literature; (2) to continue to develop and dynamic capabilities, they sought to differentiate it
elucidate relevant theoretical assumptions un- from the more static orientation of the RBV. Whereas
derlying the dynamic capabilities perspective, in- the RBV emphasizes the firm’s current resource base,
cluding more attention to feedback effects involving defined as the firm’s resources (tangible and in-
dynamic capabilities and various antecedents, mod- tangible assets) and operational capabilities, the dy-
erators, mechanisms, and consequences; (3) to in- namic capabilities perspective primarily addresses
crease the integration of the dynamic capabilities purposeful modifications of this resource base. Al-
perspective with relevant theories that are currently though often underemphasized in the literature on
underused or not used at all, in concert with empir- dynamic capabilities, this perspective also encom-
ical investigation; (4) to deepen and broaden our passes alterations to the firm’s external environment
understanding of the dimensions of dynamic capa- (Helfat & Winter, 2011; Teece, 2007).
bilities, including their microfoundations and un- To appreciate the distinctiveness of the dynamic
resolved tensions with respect to the extent of their capabilities perspective (and the scope of the current
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 393

article), it is important to note that firm capabilities as a “high-level routine (or collection of routines).”
can be divided into two broad categories: (1) opera- In addition, because dynamic capabilities are con-
tional (or ordinary) capabilities, which are directed text specific and embedded within organizations,
toward maintaining and leveraging the status quo in firms must build them over time (Helfat & Martin,
terms of the scale and scope of activities, businesses, 2015). Such capabilities are difficult to buy and sell,
product lines, customer segments, and the like; and except as part of the sale of an entire organizational
(2) dynamic capabilities, which are directed toward unit in which they are embedded; as a result, their
strategic change (Helfat & Winter, 2011; Winter, development entails significant sunk costs (Winter,
2003; Zahra et al., 2006). As such, dynamic capabil- 2003). Thus, obtaining a systematic means to pro-
ities can be considered a distinct subset of organi- mote strategic change through dynamic capabilities
zational capabilities; specifically, they are those requires a substantial commitment of organizational
capabilities that can effect change in the firm’s effort, time, and funds.
existing resource base (and the associated support Not surprisingly, given the challenges of achiev-
system such as the firm’s organizational and gover- ing strategic change as well as the organizational
nance structure), its ecosystem and external envi- commitment required to do so, skeptics have asked
ronment, as well as its strategy. Our review focuses whether dynamic capabilities truly exist and, if so,
on this capability subset. Over the last 20 years, re- how they function and what outcomes they pro-
search on dynamic capabilities has evolved to a de- duce. Ultimately, only empirical research can an-
gree where it has become an institutionalized field of swer these questions fully. For this reason, we next
its own, and although this field frequently draws on turn to a systematic analysis of recent research on
related literatures (such as those on absorptive ca- dynamic capabilities, which has a substantial em-
pacity and organizational learning), the scope of this pirical component, supplemented by theoretical
review is confined to studies that have sought to contributions.
contribute to or draw from the dynamic capabilities
Dynamic capabilities arguably have captured at- METHODS
tention because they may offer a route to competi-
tive advantage under conditions of change, a vexing
goal that is the virtual Holy Grail of strategic man- The starting point for our review and assessment
agement (Helfat & Peteraf, 2009). The domain of of the literature is a comprehensive content analysis
interest spans multiple levels of analysis within and of journal articles about dynamic capabilities. The
outside the organization, encompasses strategy sample primarily consists of articles published be-
content and process, and involves numerous ap- tween 2008 and 2016. We selected 2008 as the
plications such as innovation, acquisitions, alli- starting year because many previous literature re-
ances, market entry, diversification, and more views, such as Barreto’s (2010) influential piece,
(Helfat et al., 2007). This broad set of applications, ended in 2007. In terms of publication outlets, to
combined with the inherent importance of the identify articles for inclusion in our analysis, we
topic, has made dynamic capabilities of interest to began with the top 100 management journals
a wide range of scholars. according to Thompson Reuters’ 2013 Journal Ci-
A distinguishing feature of dynamic capabilities tation Report (coincidentally, the top 100 were also
is the systematic means of strategic change that the management journals with an impact factor of
they provide. All capabilities, including dynamic greater than 1.0). Starting with this broad range of
capabilities, entail the capacity to carry out ac- journals allows for the inclusion of studies from
tivities in a practiced and patterned manner. Thus, various subdisciplines of management that have
a dynamic capability enables the repeated and reliable adopted the dynamic capabilities perspective,
performance of an activity directed toward strategic while at the same time ensuring a certain level of
change, as distinct from entirely ad hoc problem- academic rigor. Using a variety of databases that
solving (Helfat & Winter, 2011; Winter, 2003). This cover those 100 journals, we searched for articles
capacity for repeated and reliable performance is containing “dynamic capabilit*” or “dynamic *
thought to stem in significant ways from organizational capabilit*” in their titles or abstracts. This keyword-
routines (Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000; Stadler, Helfat, & based search is consistent with our aim to
Verona, 2013; Winter, 2000, 2003). Winter (2003: 991), focus on articles intended to substantially draw
for example, has described an organizational capability from and/or contribute to the field of dynamic
394 Academy of Management Annals January

capabilities research. 3 Next, we further limited TABLE 1

our sample to articles published in journals that List of Covered Journals with Five or More Identified
feature a minimum of two relevant articles. This Articles
criterion places an emphasis on those outlets in Number of
which dynamic capabilities research is at least Journal name articles
somewhat actively pursued by researchers. The
procedure yielded a total of 314 articles pub- Strategic Management Journal 36
British Journal of Management 18
lished across 51 different management journals.
Industrial Marketing Management 16
Finally, to ensure that our analysis also reflects Organization Science 15
important earlier empirical developments, we com- Journal of Product Innovation Management 13
plemented these recent articles with highly cited California Management Review 11
empirical work published prior to 2008. Based on Journal of Management Studies 11
R&D Management 10
Peteraf et al.’s (2013) list of the most-cited articles in
Technovation 10
the dynamic capabilities research domain, we iden- Academy of Management Perspectives 9
tified 31 articles that have an empirical component Industrial and Corporate Change 9
and added them to our sample, for a total of 345 ar- Strategic Organization 9
ticles. In the coding process, we then dropped 47 of Academy of Management Journal 8
International Journal of Project 8
these articles that only referred to dynamic capabil-
ities superficially without substantively building on International Small Business Journal 8
or contributing to the dynamic capabilities literature. Journal of Management 8
Dropping these 47 articles led to a final sample of 298 Journal of Operations Management 8
articles. Table 1 provides an overview of the journals Decision Sciences 7
International Journal of Management 7
that published most of the articles in our sample.
International Journal of Operations and 7
Production Management
Journal of International Business Studies 7
In two separate coding sheets, we recorded both Journal of Management Information 7
the current state of knowledge (i.e., what the articles
Research Policy 7
in our sample have contributed to our knowledge of Journal of Engineering and Technology 6
dynamic capabilities) as well as recommendations Management
for future research (along with limitations identified Journal of Supply Chain Management 6
by authors). This latter coding allows us to synthe- Asian Pacific Journal of Management 5
Small Business Economics 5
size extant recommendations for future research,
thus offering bottom-up insights into what the field
as a whole sees as opportunities for future research
(Brutus, Aguinis, & Wassmer, 2013; de Jong, Kroon, field has learned thus far as well as a springboard for
& Schilke, 2017). As noted by Campion (1993), pre- examining where dynamic capabilities research
viously articulated limitations and avenues for could productively go next. We further augment the
future research afford other researchers the oppor- content analysis with our own assessment of the lit-
tunity to identify fruitful areas for further inquiry. erature. Then we make recommendations regarding
Taken together, our dual-tracked coding approach issues that we believe have been largely resolved and
provides a solid basis for our synthesis of what the thus may not require significant additional study, as
well as issues that in our view have received in-
sufficient attention and should thus be at the center
It is our assessment that the dynamic capabilities per- of future inquiry.
spective has become institutionalized to a point where Our content analysis began with the first two co-
researchers aiming to contribute to or draw from this field
authors reading an article in its entirety, paying
explicitly use (a variant of) the term “dynamic capabil-
particular attention to its discussion and limitations
ities.” Given that the scope of our review is confined to the
dynamic capabilities field only (and we do not attempt to sections. We identified a statement as relevant only
cover other constructs related to strategic change unless when it focused specifically on either dynamic ca-
they are explicitly studied from a dynamic capabilities pabilities or a particular instance of such a capabil-
viewpoint), we believe the keyword-based search is highly ity. In constructing a coding scheme, we followed an
appropriate for identifying our sample. iterative approach of moving back and forth between
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 395

our data and relevant theoretical frameworks (Duriau, disagreements in our initial independent coding
Reger, & Pfarrer, 2007; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). While through discussion and established mutually agreed-
we concentrated on conceptually and theoretically upon definitions of the first-, second-, and third-layer
relevant items, we also included methodological sug- concepts. The remaining articles in our sample were
gestions in our coding, as explained in more detail later. approximately equally divided between the two coders.
Based on a random sample of 20 articles, we developed
initial coding sheets for classifying the current state of
knowledge and relevant suggestions for future research.
As we analyzed additional articles, we continued to
hone the coding schemes by collapsing, dropping, and Informed by the content analysis of the 298 articles
adding categories. in our sample, our article speaks to both the current
With regard to first-layer coding categories, we be- state of knowledge and important avenues for future
gan with the fundamental building blocks of a theory research on dynamic capabilities. We start by syn-
summarized by Whetten (1989): what, how, why, and thesizing the current state of knowledge before
who/where/when. “What” pertains to the nature and turning to future research directions. Table 2 lists
properties of dynamic capabilities, whereas “how” concepts that emerged in our coding of the current
refers to the pattern, sequence, and form of the rela- state of knowledge, provides brief explanations and
tionships between dynamic capabilities and other examples of articles that have employed the con-
dependent and independent variables of interest cepts, and reports frequencies (number and per-
(i.e., consequences and antecedents). “Why” pertains centage of articles) for each of the individual
to assumptions about the underlying causal mecha- concepts identified in our coding.
nisms that explain why dynamic capabilities are re- As shown in Table 2 and explained later, our anal-
lated to other variables. Finally, “who/where/when” ysis reveals that dynamic capabilities research has
refers to certain boundary conditions under which covered a variety of areas: definition of the construct;
the predicted relationships are most and least likely theoretical assumptions underlying dynamic capabil-
to hold. ities; theoretical integration of dynamic capabilities
Beginning with this first-layer typology of “what,” and other theoretical lenses; dimensions according to
“how,” “why,” and “who/where/when,” we intro- which dynamic capabilities are characterized; ante-
duced increasingly fine-grained second and third cedents to the creation and use of dynamic capabilities;
layers by identifying reoccurring themes in the ini- consequences (outcomes) of the utilization of dynamic
tial sample of 20 articles. For example, we specified capabilities; mechanisms (mediators) through which
“antecedent,” “consequence,” and “dynamics” as dynamic capabilities affect outcomes; moderators of
second-layer subclasses of the first-layer “how” cate- the relationship between dynamic capabilities and
gory. Delving another layer deeper, we found variables outcomes; dynamics with respect to the impact of dy-
such as “innovation outcomes,” “external fitness,” namic capabilities on outcomes and the development
“firm-level performance,” and “survival” to be fre- of these capabilities over time; and methods. We begin
quently mentioned types of consequences, and thus with a discussion of the theoretical aspects on which
we used these concepts, along with an “other (in- the literature has focused in recent years. Then we
cluding unspecified)” category, as third-layer sub- formulate an organizing framework for understanding
classes of the second-layer “consequence” category. dynamic capabilities that encompasses the anteced-
In addition to these theory-related issues, we ex- ents, dimensions, consequences, mechanisms, and
panded our coding scheme by including a fifth first- moderators identified in the literature to date. We
layer category containing “methods” issues. The two conclude our analysis of the current state of knowledge
coding sheets for the current state of knowledge and fu- with a discussion of the dynamics involved and an
ture research directions are substantively similar at the examination of the methods used in studies of dynamic
first and second layer. Appendices A and B present an capabilities.
overview of the emergent coding schemes for the current
state of knowledge and future research directions.
Theoretical Foundations
The first two coauthors independently coded a sub-
sample of 39 randomly selected articles (see Appendix Definitions. Our findings make it clear that re-
C for a list of these articles). Based on this double coding, searchers have devoted significant attention to
we found the agreement at the third-layer level to be 93 addressing earlier criticisms of the dynamic capabilities
percent, indicating strong reliability. We reconciled perspective on multiple fronts. First, Table 2 shows an
396 Academy of Management Annals January

Overview of the Current State in Dynamic Capabilities Research
Examples from Our Frequency
Concept Explanation Article Sample (Percentage)a

Dynamic capabilities Ways in which dynamic capabilities have been

definitions conceptualized
Teece et al. (1997: 516) “We define dynamic capabilities as the firm’s Døving and Gooderham (2008), 111 (37.3%)
ability to integrate, build, and reconfigure Witcher and Chau (2012)
internal and external competences to address
rapidly changing environments. Dynamic
capabilities thus reflect an organization’s ability
to achieve new and innovative forms of
competitive advantage given path dependencies
and market positions (. . .).”
Eisenhardt and Martin “The firm’s processes that use Butler and Murphy (2008), Sarkis, 59 (19.8%)
(2000: 1107) resources—specifically the processes to Gonzalez-Torre, and Adenso-
integrate, reconfigure, gain and release Diaz (2010)
resources—to match and even create market
change. Dynamic capabilities thus are the
organizational and strategic routines by which
firms achieve new resource configurations as
markets emerge, collide, split, evolve, and die.”
Helfat et al. (2007: 1) “A dynamic capability is the capacity of an Anand et al. (2010), Maatman, 49 (16.4%)
organization to purposefully create, extend, or Bondarouk, and Looise (2010)
modify its resource base.”
Zollo and Winter “A dynamic capability is a learned and stable Arend (2014), Dobrzykowski, 23 (7.7%)
(2002: 340) pattern of collective activity through which the McFadden, and Vonderembse
organization systematically generates and (2016), Romme, Zollo, and
modifies its operating routines in pursuit of Berends (2010)
improved effectiveness.”
Teece (2007: 1319) “These capabilities can be harnessed to Desyllas and Sako (2013), Zheng 34 (11.4%)
continuously create, extend, upgrade, protect, et al. (2011)
and keep relevant the enterprise’s unique asset
Winter (2003: 991) “Defining ordinary or ‘zero-level’ capabilities as Athreye, Kale, and Ramani 17 (5.7%)
those that permit a firm to ‘make a living’ in the (2009), Rahmandad (2012)
short term, one can define dynamic capabilities
as those that operate to extend, modify or create
ordinary capabilities.”
Other definition A definition based on a reference not listed Gabler, Richey, and Rapp (2015), 53 (17.8%)
previously (e.g., Adner & Helfat, 2003; Barreto, Sirmon and Hitt (2009)

Theoretical Taken-for-granted facts or assertions

Bounded rationality Degree to which individuals’ decisions are limited Augier and Teece (2009), 7 (2.4%)
by the tractability of the decision problem, the MacLean et al. (2015)
cognitive limitations of their minds, and the time
available to make the decision
Managerial agency Role of, and degree of heterogeneity in, managerial Di Stefano et al. (2014), Helfat and 9 (3.0%)
decisions and quality Peteraf (2015)
Heterogeneity of Degree to which dynamic capabilities are firm Barreto (2010), Kleinbaum and 11 (3.7%)
dynamic specific versus have commonalities across firms Stuart (2014)
capabilities in terms of key features (“best practices”)

Theoretical Combination of dynamic capabilities perspective

integration with other theories
Resource-based A theory focusing on how certain characteristics of Kim and Mahoney (2010), 12 (4.0%)
view of the firm resources can give the firm a competitive Morgan, Vorhies, and Mason
advantage (2009)
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 397

Examples from Our Frequency
Concept Explanation Article Sample (Percentage)a

Organizational A theory focusing on the processes through which Denford (2013), Di Stefano et al. 13 (4.4%)
learning theory knowledge is absorbed, processed, and retained (2010)
Evolutionary A theory focusing on firm and industry dynamics, Augier and Teece (2008), 8 (2.7%)
economics changing structures, and disequilibrium Fueglistaller and Schrettle
processes (2010), Primc and Čater (2016)
Transaction cost A theory focusing on the costs of market Augier and Teece (2009), 6 (2.0%)
economics transactions and the influence on make-or-buy Nickerson et al. (2012)
decisions, firm boundaries, and governance

Dynamic Ways in which dynamic capabilities can be

capabilities characterized and typologies constructed
Procedural Typologies differentiating between processes that Coordinating/learning/ 159 (53.4%)
underlie dynamic capabilities reconfiguring
Pierce (2009)
Martin (2011)
Routinization Typologies differentiating between more and less- Peteraf et al. (2013), Salvato 38 (12.8%)
routinized processes and heuristics (2009)
Functional Typologies differentiating between different Alliancing 188 (63.1%)
functional domains/activities in a firm Schilke (2014a)
New product development
Danneels (2008)
Mergers & acquisitions
Bingham et al. (2015)
Bingham and Eisenhardt (2011)
Hierarchical Typologies based on the idea that each capability is Heimeriks et al. (2012), 38 (12.8%)
nested within a higher-order capability; e.g., first- Robertson, Casali, and
order dynamic capabilities reconfigure the Jacobson (2012)
organizational resource base, second-order
dynamic capabilities reconfigure first-order
dynamic capabilities, and so on
By unit of analysis Typologies based on different analytical levels; Individual 233 (78.2%)
dynamic capabilities associated with individual Adner and Helfat (2003),
managers, teams, organizational units, firms, or Sirmon and Hitt (2009)
firm networks (e.g., supply chains) Group
Friedman et al. (2016),
Hodgkinson and Healey (2011)
Coen and Maritan (2011),
Rahmandad (2012)
Beyond firm boundaries
Dyer and Nobeoka (2000), Kim,
Cavusgil, and Cavusgil (2013)

Antecedents Drivers/sources of dynamic capabilities

Experience Direct contact with or observation of facts or events Chen et al. (2012), Schilke and 28 (9.4%)
Goerzen (2010)
Organizational Way in which activities (such as task allocation, Eisenhardt et al. (2010), Felin and 28 (9.4%)
structure coordination, and supervision) are orchestrated Powell (2016), Schilke and
toward the achievement of organizational aims Goerzen (2010)
Organizational culture Collective values, beliefs, and principles of Anand et al. (2009), Bock et al. 19 (6.4%)
organizational members (2012), Song, Lee, and Khanna
398 Academy of Management Annals January

Examples from Our Frequency
Concept Explanation Article Sample (Percentage)a

Resources Valuable tangible or intangible assets or supplies at Capron and Mitchell (2009), Salge 43 (14.4%)
the firm’s disposal and Vera (2013)
Information Application of computers and the Internet to store, Macher and Mowery (2009), 12 (4.0%)
technology study, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data Pavlou and El Sawy (2010)
Human capital Employees’ skill sets Hsu and Wang (2012), Kale (2010) 14 (4.7%)
Leadership Group of individuals who guide a firm (e.g., the top Day and Schoemaker (2016), Kor 16 (5.4%)
management team or the CEO) and Mesko (2013), Rindova and
Kotha (2001)
Managerial Managers’ mental representations and action or Dunning and Lundan (2010), 16 (5.4%)
cognition process of acquiring knowledge and Leiblein (2011)
External environment External surroundings or conditions in which a firm Fawcett et al. (2011), Killen et al. 18 (6.0%)
operates (2012)
Inter-organizational Pattern of relationships through which firms are Jansen et al. (2005), Roberts and 6 (2.0%)
structure connected to each other Grover (2012)

Consequences Outcomes of dynamic capabilities

Firm-level Financial or competitive firm accomplishments Desyllas and Sako (2013), 113 (37.9%)
performance (such as accounting profitability or competitive Shamsie, Martin, and Miller
advantage) (2009), Teece and Leih (2016)
Domain-/process- Specific accomplishments within a particular Acquisition performance 22 (7.4%)
specific performance domain or process (such as acquisition Zollo and Singh (2004)
integration, product quality, and supply chain Product quality performance
management) Su et al. (2014)
Supply chain performance
Golgeci and Ponomarov (2013)
Resource development
Stadler et al. (2013)
External fitness Degree to which the firm, its resources, or its Helfat and Peteraf (2009), 14 (4.7%)
activities are favored by the selection Lichtenthaler and
environment Lichtenthaler (2009)
Survival Continued existence of the firm Dixon et al. (2014), Rosenbloom 8 (2.7%)
Growth Process of increase in size of key measures, such as Filatotchev and Piesse (2009), 9 (3.0%)
annual revenues or number of employees Nickerson et al. (2012)
Flexibility Ability of the firm to accommodate major changes Vanpoucke et al. (2014), Wilhelm, 9 (3.0%)
Schlömer, and Maurer (2015)
Innovation Results of processes of innovating, such as new Karim (2009), Mitchell and 41 (13.8%)
outcomes product introductions, patents, etc. Skrzypacz (2015)
Resource base change Alterations to the portfolio of resources Ambrosini et al. (2009), Helfat 17 (5.7%)
and Martin (2015)
Learning Acquisition of knowledge or skills Agarwal et al. (2004), Easterby- 9 (3.0%)
Smith and Prieto (2008)

Mechanisms Intermediate variables through which an

independent variable causally affects an outcome
(here: through which dynamic capabilities
influence consequences)
Resource base Portfolio of firm resources and capabilities Fainshmidt et al. (2016), Karimi 11 (3.7%)
and Walter (2015), Protogerou
et al. (2012)

Moderators Third variables that affect the strength of the

relationship between dynamic capabilities and
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 399

Examples from Our Frequency
Concept Explanation Article Sample (Percentage)a

Organizational size Largeness of the organization (often determined by Arend (2015), O’Reilly et al. 6 (2.0%)
the number of its members or the scale of its (2009)
Organizational Way in which activities (such as task allocation, Fang and Zou (2009), Wilden, 3 (1.0%)
structure coordination, and supervision) are orchestrated Gudergan, Nielsen, and Lings
toward the achievement of organizational aims (2013)
Organizational culture Collective values, beliefs, and principles of O’Connor (2008), Roberts, 5 (1.7%)
organizational members Campbell, and Vijayasarathy
(2016), Slater et al. (2014)
Strategy Sum of the actions a firm intends to take to achieve Carpenter et al. (2001), Engelen 7 (2.4%)
long-term goals et al. (2014)
Interorganizational Pattern of relationships through which firms are Ambrosini and 4 (1.3%)
structure connected to each other Bowman (2009),
and Youndt
Other organizational Organizational capabilities other than the focal Second-order dynamic 18 (6.0%)
capabilities dynamic capability under investigation capabilities
Schilke (2014b)
Idiosyncratic resources
Teece (2014)
Industry sector The field in which the firm conducts business Pandza and Thorpe (2009), 4 (1.3%)
Piening (2013)
Geographic area The region or country in which the firm is located Brouthers et al. (2008), Parente 6 (1.0 %)
et al. (2011)
Environmental The rate and unpredictability of environmental El Sawy, Malhotra, Park, and 44 (14.8%)
dynamism change Pavlou (2010), Harris et al.
Competitive intensity The intensity of rivalry among competitors in an Arrfelt, Wiseman, McNamara, 5 (1.7%)
industry and Hult (2015), Harvey,
Skelcher, Spencer, Jas, and
Walshe (2010)

Dynamics Time-dependent processes

Evolution Gradual development Fischer et al. (2010), Jenkins 11 (3.7%)
Timing The points in time at which dynamic capabilities Ambrosini and Bowman (2009), 2 (0.7%)
are developed or exert their effects Bingham et al. (2015)

Methods Methodology employed by the article

Empirical Large-scale survey, qualitative methods, archival Karna et al. (2016), Lee and Kelley 197 (66.1%)
data, mixed methods, etc. (2008), Lee and Kang (2015)
Theoretical Narrative theory, conceptual analysis, simulation Chi and Seth (2009), Tang and 101 (33.9%)
modeling, closed form mathematical modeling, Liou (2010)

Frequency is the total number of articles referring to or using the concept, and percentage is the frequency divided by the total number of
articles coded (i.e., 298).

increasing convergence among definitions of the dy- et al. (2007) has seen increasing popularity, with 16
namic capabilities construct. Whereas more than one- percent of articles referring to it.4
third of the articles that we analyzed refer to Teece
et al.’s (1997) original conceptualization and about 20 4
In our coding of definitions, we only counted a certain
percent refer to the definition of Eisenhardt and Martin reference if the analyzed article explicitly referred to this ref-
(2000), the more recent integrative definition by Helfat erence as a source for the definition of dynamic capabilities.
400 Academy of Management Annals January

Helfat et al. (2007) defined dynamic capabilities as considers path dependencies to be too strong for
“the capacity of an organization to purposefully create, organizations to be able to adapt (except on the
extend, or modify its resource base” (p. 1) in periphery). Moreover, the assumptions of the dy-
a practiced and patterned manner. In an extension namic capabilities approach are portrayed as hav-
of this definition, Helfat and Winter (2011) noted ing many similarities with those of the behavioral
that dynamic capabilities also provide the capacity theory of the firm, including the presumption of
for an organization to influence its external envi- bounded rationality, the importance of firm het-
ronment, as emphasized by Teece (2007). The def- erogeneity, and a central role for learning. Augier
inition of Helfat et al. (2007) and similar ones, such and Teece (2008, 2009) also argue that despite
as those by Zollo and Winter (2002), Winter (2003), complementarities with transaction cost econom-
and Helfat and Winter (2011), avoid the potential ics, the dynamic capabilities approach differs from
tautology trap (Priem & Butler, 2001; Zollo & it in focusing on opportunity (rather than oppor-
Winter, 2002) by not equating dynamic capabil- tunism), on new resources (rather than existing
ities with performance and instead emphasizing ones), and on value creation (rather than value
their purpose of changing the organizational re- protection). We believe that theoretical work, such
source base and/or the external environment. These as Augier and Teece (2008, 2009), that helps to ex-
definitions also avoid confusion regarding whether plain and clarify the theoretical assumptions of
environmental dynamism constitutes a defining the dynamic capabilities paradigm has been valu-
element of dynamic capabilities (Zahra et al., 2006); able in helping the field to further converge and
as Helfat and Winter (2011) and Schilke (2014a) clarifying the scope conditions under which the
stress, dynamic capabilities can also exist in rela- concept is likely to provide most insight. Making
tively stable environments as firms expand or oth- assumptions explicit also enables researchers to
erwise alter their business. However, as discussed draw out new predictions (Cohen, 1989), thus
later, subsequent research has shown that environ- helping to further expand the dynamic capabilities
mental dynamism is an important antecedent to perspective.
dynamic capabilities, in line with Teece et al. Theoretical integration. From its inception, the
(1997), and is a relevant contingency when exam- dynamic capabilities perspective has taken a highly
ining their effects. integrative approach that flexibly draws on adja-
Theoretical assumptions. Like any other theoret- cent theories. Scholars have advocated continuing
ical approach, the dynamic capabilities perspective this approach and further enriching the dynamic
rests on certain theoretical assumptions. These capabilities perspective with other relevant theo-
assumptions have sometimes been made implic- ries (Arend & Bromiley, 2009; Helfat & Peteraf,
itly, but in recent years, more researchers have 2009)—a call to which scholars have vigorously
started to make them explicit and discussed their responded. Among the theories most frequently
merits and justifications. In particular, some of the employed in recent dynamic capabilities research,
dynamic capabilities perspective’s key assump- the RBV, organizational learning theory, evolutionary
tions that have received considerable attention economics, and transaction cost economics are
pertain to decision makers’ bounded rationality most prominent (with 12, 13, 8, and 6 studies,
(Augier & Teece, 2009; MacLean, MacIntosh, & respectively).
Seidl, 2015) and their agency in promoting strategic As we discussed earlier, the dynamic capabilities
change (Di Stefano et al., 2014; Helfat & Peteraf, perspective originally had as one of its primary foci the
2015), as well as the heterogeneity of dynamic ca- modification of the firm’s asset base, so the strong the-
pabilities between organizations (Barreto, 2010; oretical connection to the RBV in ongoing work is not
Kleinbaum & Stuart, 2014). surprising. Moreover, the emphasis of dynamic capa-
A particularly noteworthy contribution in this bilities on strategic change necessitates insight into how
regard is the groundwork by Augier and Teece organizations develop and integrate new resources and
(2008, 2009), who elaborated several of the dy- capabilities, which—as Zollo and Winter (2002) made
namic capabilities perspective’s assumptions vis- clear—is where organizational learning theory comes
à-vis other theoretical approaches. For example, in. Learning has three roles in the dynamic capabilities
they clearly distance the dynamic capabilities perspective, and these roles are sometimes not well
tradition from a strict population ecology view, in distinguished. First, as is true for all capabilities, dy-
that the former sees a clear role for managerial and namic capabilities develop through learning, involving
organizational agency, whereas the latter usually deliberate learning or learning-by-doing, or both (Zollo
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 401

& Winter, 2002). Secondly, some types of dynamic ca- underdeveloped 10 years ago (Arend & Bromiley,
pabilities are capabilities for learning; these capabilities 2009; Danneels, 2008), a multitude of studies have
enable organizations to learn, thereby facilitating orga- since made significant progress on these issues.
nizational and strategic change. For example, Salge and Figure 2 integrates the various findings of the studies
Vera (2013) studied incremental learning as a dynamic in our sample into a new and comprehensive orga-
capability that facilitates firm adaptation, and Schilke nizing framework that identifies the primary in-
(2014b) analyzed the relationship between dynamic fluences on, characteristics of, and outcomes of dynamic
capabilities for “learning to learn” and dynamic capa- capabilities. Because Figure 2 reflects research to date in
bilities for directly modifying the firm’s resource base. an area that is still developing, some portions of the
And third, to the extent that dynamic capabilities en- framework are necessarily incomplete. As part of the
able organizations to learn, then learning is an outcome discussion of dynamic capabilities research below, we
of dynamic capabilities. identify remaining gaps in the literature, which call for
With respect to other theories that have significantly additional research.
informed the dynamic capabilities perspective, evolu- Dimensionalization. As shown in Figure 2, an in-
tionary economics has contributed an orientation to- creasing number of researchers have come to realize
ward innovation, as well as an emphasis on routines and that dynamic capabilities are not a unitary concept;
path dependence (Helfat & Peteraf, 2009; MacLean et al., rather, these capabilities manifest themselves in
2015). Approximately 16 percent of the articles in our various distinct forms (Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000;
sample refer either directly to evolutionary economics Helfat et al., 2007; Helfat & Winter, 2011). As such,
(3 percent) or to routinization (13 percent, as part of the scholars have developed different ways in which to
dimensions of dynamic capabilities discussed later). dimensionalize the dynamic capabilities construct.
One issue of ongoing contestation and debate is Chief among these approaches are distinctions be-
whether all dynamic capabilities are necessarily tween (a) the types of processes in which dynamic
highly routine-based—a question to which we will capabilities are engaged (e.g., coordinating/learning/
return in our discussion of how dynamic capabilities reconfiguring—Teece et al. 1997; sensing/seizing/
may be dimensionalized. Finally, transaction cost transforming—Teece 2007); (b) the degree of routini-
economics can help dynamic capabilities scholars to zation of dynamic capabilities (e.g., contrasting rela-
more comprehensively address questions regarding tively spontaneous problem-solving with highly
firm boundaries, although this is an area where there patterned routines—Winter, 2003); (c) the functional
is a noticeable gap in the literature, with only 3 per- domain in which dynamic capabilities are applied
cent of articles referring to this. As Argyres and Zenger (e.g., alliancing, new product development, mergers &
(2012) argued, transaction cost and capabilities acquisitions—Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000); (d) the
explanations of firm boundaries are deeply inter- hierarchy of capabilities (zero-, first-, second-, and
twined, and a synthesis of the two perspectives af- higher-order capabilities—Collis, 1994); and (e) the
fords a more comprehensive understanding of focal unit of analysis (individual, team, organiza-
boundary decisions that encompasses both holdup tional, and extra-organizational—Adner & Helfat,
and asset-complementarity considerations. Overall, 2003; Felin, Foss, Heimeriks, & Madsen, 2012).
we applaud continuing efforts to highlight and le- These different approaches have contributed
verage relevant overlaps with other theories as these much richness and nuance to our understanding of
efforts have the potential to further enhance the the- what constitutes concrete and observable dynamic
oretical richness and precision of the dynamic capa- capabilities. Teece’s (2007) typology of sensing new
bilities approach (see Whetten, Felin, & King, 2009 for opportunities (and threats), seizing these opportu-
more general thoughts regarding the merits and nities, and transforming the organization and its
challenges associated with theory borrowing). strategy as new opportunities and threats arise has
been used in a large percentage of the articles in our
sample. According to this typology, dynamic capa-
Organizing Framework for Dynamic Capabilities
bilities are reflected in distinct organizational processes
Beyond theoretical considerations involving dy- aimed at gaining a comprehensive understanding of
namic capabilities, researchers have significantly the business environment and emerging opportuni-
improved our understanding of the nomological net- ties and threats (sensing), making strategic choices
work surrounding dynamic capabilities. Whereas among investment opportunities and business
knowledge of relevant facets of dynamic capabilities, models (seizing), and reconfiguring the organization’s
as well as their antecedents and consequences, was resources, structure, and capabilities (transforming).
402 Academy of Management Annals January

Organizing Framework of Dynamic Capabilities


Organizational factors
• Experience
• Organizational structure
• Organizational culture Mechanisms Consequences
intraorganizational • Resource base Performance:
communication, external • Firm-level
Dynamic capabilities
orientation) performance
• Resources (including • Domain-/process-
capabilities) specific performance
• Information technology Dimensionalization • External fitness
Procedural: • Survival
• Coordinating/learning/ • Growth
Individual/team factors
reconfiguring • Flexibility
• Human captial
• Leadership • Innovation outcomes
• Sensing/seizing/ Moderators
• Managerial cognition transforming
Organizational factors Change:
• Size • Resource-base change
Environmental factors • Structure • Learning
• Routine-/heuristics-based
• External environment • Culture
(including dynamism, • Strategy
uncertainty, stage of • Interorganizational
evolution) • Alliancing, new product
development, mergers &
• Interorganizational acquisitions, • Other organizational
structure internationalization, etc. capabilities

Environmental factors
• Industry sector
• Zero-, first-, second-, and
higher-order capabilites • Geographical area
• Environmental
By unit of analysis: dynamism
• Individual, group, firm, • Competitive intensity
and beyond firm

More than 50 percent of the articles refer to either this a supersession of Teece et al.’s (1997) original
typology or the Teece et al. (1997) typology of co- typology.5
ordinating activities, learning, and reconfiguring the
Despite different labels, foci, and ordering, the two Similarly, although Teece et al. (1997) used what at first
organizational process-based typologies in Teece glance appears to be a different overarching framing with
(2007) and Teece et al. (1997) have many similarities respect to strategic opportunities than Teece (2007), the
and overlaps. A comparison of the two shows that two articles in fact have very similar approaches. Teece
et al. (1997) framed the dynamic capabilities perspective
Teece (2007) placed greater emphasis on sensing
broadly as one of processes-positions-paths, where a firm
(which Teece et al. (1997) mentioned as a subprocess
pursues paths (strategic opportunities) through the use of
of reconfiguring), whereas Teece et al. (1997) de- managerial and organizational processes, shaped by the
voted more attention to coordinating (which Teece firm’s positions (its existing asset base). Teece (2007) fo-
(2007) mentioned as a subprocess of transforming). cused on the goal of pursuing strategic opportunities with-
Therefore, we see Teece’s (2007) discussion of or- out calling them paths, and then elaborated on the processes
ganizational processes as an elaboration rather than for doing so, namely sensing, seizing, and transforming.
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 403

Another way to dimensionalize dynamic capabil- perspective to adjacent fields, including operations
ities is by their degree of routinization (Eisenhardt & management and marketing, in which interorgani-
Martin, 2000), which is addressed in 13 percent of zational relationships are frequently studied. More-
the articles in our sample. Teece et al. (1997) and over, because geographic expansion is another way
Teece (2007) incorporated organizational routines as to exercise dynamic capabilities, the purposeful
important elements of dynamic capabilities, and this management of organizational internationalization
aspect of dynamic capabilities has also been em- is an important activity embraced by strategy and
phasized by Winter (2003) and Helfat and Winter international business scholars alike.
(2011). Yet, there is also evidence that some activities Another dimension of dynamic capabilities that
appear to be less routine. Nonetheless, on closer in- has received considerable attention is their location
spection, it turns out these activities frequently have within a hierarchy of capabilities, with 13 percent of
important routinized aspects. For example, although the articles in our sample referring to this. Collis
new product development may have nonroutine as- (1994) first proposed that dynamic capabilities nest
pects as the individuals involved explore new ideas, within a larger hierarchy of capabilities. At the
new product development often takes place within base of the hierarchy are operational capabilities, or
a stable framework of recurring (and therefore what Collis (1994) termed “zero-order” capabilities,
somewhat routine) organizational processes (see which can be modified by dynamic capabilities
Iansiti & Clark, 1994). Similarly, Teece (2007) as well (termed “first-order” capabilities by Collis (1994)).
as later works such as by Augier and Teece (2008, These dynamic capabilities can themselves be
2009) have emphasized the “entrepreneurial” and modified by “second-order” and even “higher-order”
less-routinized aspect of managerial decision-making. dynamic capabilities (Collis, 1994). Winter (2003,
But as Adner and Helfat (2003) argued in their original 2008) and many other scholars have since adopted
conception of “dynamic managerial capabilities,” this terminology. Later work by Danneels (2008),
managerial decision-making often relies on stable however, referred to Collis’s (1994) zero-order and
underpinnings that enable practiced and patterned first-order capabilities instead as first-order and
behavior (Helfat & Martin, 2015). These un- second-order capabilities, respectively, creating
derpinnings include the managerial resources of some confusion with regard to terminology. Most
human capital, social capital, and cognition iden- subsequent research has used the Collis/Winter
tified by Adner and Helfat (2003), as well as the terminology.
mental processes (a subset of managerial cognition) Increasingly, scholars have also recognized that
examined by Helfat and Peteraf (2015). In summary, dynamic capabilities exist at different units of anal-
whereas dynamic capabilities can in many cases be ysis. Over three-quarters of the articles in the sample
associated with routines, the specific degree of addressed units of analysis in one way or another,
routinization can certainly differ between individ- reflecting the fact that dynamic capabilities can rest
ual instances of dynamic capabilities. either at the organizational level, the managerial/
In addition, 63 percent of the articles use a func- individual level, or some other level of analysis
tional typology to study specific functional domains (e.g., the team level). Although research at the level of
and applications within the firm. The empirical lit- the organization remains most common, there has
erature has thus made concrete the insights of been an increasing interest in dynamic managerial
Eisenhardt and Martin (2000) and Winter (2003), capabilities as noted previously (Adner & Helfat,
who noted that dynamic capabilities pertain to spe- 2003; Helfat & Martin, 2015; Sirmon & Hitt, 2009), in
cific activities and the context in which they are line with the ongoing microfoundations movement
employed. New product development can probably in capabilities research more generally (Felin et al.,
be considered the most typical and traditional 2012). Individual skills and cognitions have come to
functional domain of dynamic capabilities since the foreground (Helfat & Peteraf, 2015), the inquiry of
Iansiti and Clark’s (1994) original investigation. which now constitutes an important component of
Given that organizations can also try to access re- the dynamic capabilities perspective. Complement-
sources outside their current boundaries for pur- ing the organizational and individual level, re-
poses of strategic change, mergers and acquisitions searchers have pointed to the importance of dynamic
as well as alliances are other heavily researched capabilities of key groups, such as top management
functional instances of dynamic capabilities. Rec- and other executive teams (Friedman, Carmeli, &
ognition of the importance of these topics has con- Tishler, 2016; Martin, 2011), and have even made the
tributed to the diffusion of the dynamic capabilities case that dynamic capabilities can operate beyond
404 Academy of Management Annals January

firm boundaries, such as at the level of the pro- Despite these largely consistent findings regarding
duction network (Dyer & Nobeoka, 2000) or the na- the facilitating role of the existing resource base in
tion state (Teece, 2014). Taken together, these the development of dynamic capabilities, scholars
different foci adopted by various researchers make should also be aware of the position put forth by
clear that the dynamic capabilities perspective has Rahmandad (2012), who suggested that resources
come to represent a comprehensive multi-level and operational capabilities may function not only
paradigm. as complements to dynamic capabilities, but also as
Despite a clear trend toward more fine-grained and substitutes. In particular, managers pressed to pri-
concrete approaches (such as those reviewed pre- oritize short-term growth may decide to build op-
viously), we continue to see some investigations into erational capabilities and other organizational
a generic dynamic capabilities construct. Although resources that help generate short-term returns
we believe that it clearly makes sense to talk about while forgoing opportunities to build dynamic ca-
dynamic capabilities as a distinct phenomenon on pabilities whose effects may only materialize in the
a theoretical level, empirical study of such a general longer term. As such, the relationship between or-
concept is problematic. As just noted, dynamic ca- ganizational resources, operational capabilities,
pabilities differ according to their functional do- and dynamic capabilities may be more complicated
main, location in the capability hierarchy, and unit than originally assumed.
of analysis. In addition, any particular instance of In addition to organizational resources, organiza-
a dynamic capability is context dependent with re- tional experience has seen a noticeable amount of at-
spect to the setting (e.g., firm, industry, and geogra- tention as a potential source of dynamic capabilities
phy) in which it develops and is employed. (28 studies). For example, as noted earlier, dynamic
Empirical study of dynamic capabilities therefore capabilities develop in part through learning-by-
requires precision in defining and measuring spe- doing, and dynamic capabilities become more pro-
cific instances of dynamic capabilities. It is then ficient as organizations gain experience employing
through theoretical induction that empirical re- them. As summarized by Pisano (2002), “(t)he seeds of
searchers may generalize from their focal dimension today’s capabilities are sown in yesterday’s experi-
back to the more general level of dynamic capabil- ence” (p. 150). Consistent with this statement, Chen,
ities while being cognizant of the fact that further Williams, and Agarwal (2012) argued that prior ex-
research on other types of dynamic capabilities may perience enhances firms’ integrative capabilities for
be needed to test the theory more conclusively. coordination across businesses when entering new
Antecedents. Insight on where dynamic capabil- industries, and Schilke and Goerzen (2010) found
ities come from was limited for many years (Felin & a significant relationship between alliance experience
Foss, 2005). However, as Figure 2 shows, recent in- and alliance management capability.
vestigations have identified a number of relevant In addition, a considerable number of studies have
antecedents at multiple levels of analysis, including shed light on the effects of organizational structure
the organizational, individual, and environmental (28 studies, including Eisenhardt, Furr, & Bingham,
levels, to elucidate factors that facilitate or hinder the 2010; Felin & Powell, 2016; Schilke & Goerzen,
development, maintenance, and usage of dynamic 2010), organizational culture (19 studies, including
capabilities. Anand et al., 2009 Bock, Opsahl, George, & Gann,
Consistent with Teece et al.’s (1997) original pre- 2012), and information technology (12 studies, in-
sentation of the dynamic capabilities perspective, cluding Macher & Mowery, 2009 Pavlou & El Sawy,
existing resources—or “positions” in Teece et al.’s 2010) on dynamic capabilities.
(1997) terminology—have received much attention Moving beyond the organizational level and adding
among relevant organization-level drivers of dy- microfoundations to the research agenda (Abell,
namic capabilities (43 studies). Scholars have argued Felin, & Foss, 2008; Felin, Foss, & Ployhart, 2015),
that resource-rich firms tend to have greater capa- a total of 46 studies have elucidated individual-level
bility to plan, execute, and maintain strategic change factors and their role in shaping dynamic capabilities,
(Giudici & Reinmoeller, 2012; Helfat & Peteraf, including human capital (Hsu & Wang, 2012; Kale,
2009). Different types of resources have been found 2010), leadership (Kor & Mesko, 2013; Rindova &
to be conducive to dynamic capabilities, among them Kotha, 2001), and managerial cognition (Dunning &
financial resources (El Akremi, Perrigot, & Piot-Lepetit, Lundan, 2010; Leiblein, 2011). For example, Kale
2015), technological resources (Anand, Oriani, & (2010) showed how scientists who were educated or
Vassolo, 2010), and slack resources (Danneels, 2008). had work experience overseas helped Indian firms to
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 405

acquire R&D capabilities, and Salvato’s (2009) quali- is often viewed as a key tenet of this literature
tative study of 90 new product development pro- (Fainshmidt, Pezeshkan, Lance Frazier, Nair, &
cesses at the Italian design firm Alessi shed light on Markowski, 2016; Teece, 2014). Dynamic capabil-
how mindful “microactivities” carried out by in- ities are proposed to confer a competitive advantage
dividuals shaped the organization’s product devel- by adding unique value to the firm through system-
opment capability. Perhaps the strongest evidence of atic change, which may enhance operational effi-
a causal relationship between managerial dynamic ciency and enable increased alignment with the
capabilities and performance emerged in an experi- environment (Di Stefano et al., 2014; Peteraf et al.,
ment that was conducted in a hyper-competitive en- 2013). In addition to providing value in these ways,
vironment, where advantages from market structure dynamic capabilities can possess the other three
or strategic resources were unavailable. Nonetheless, characteristics of the RBV’s value-rarity-inimitability-
traders with superior cognitive skills—in the form nonsubstitutability (VRIN) framework (Ray, Barney, &
of strategic intelligence—outperformed competi- Muhanna, 2004; Schilke, 2012). Not all organizations
tors by up to 50% (Levine, Bernard, & Nagel, possess them (Collis, 1996); their path dependencies,
forthcoming). intangibility, complexity, and organizational specificity
Finally, another 24 investigations identified sources make them hard to imitate (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004;
of dynamic capabilities outside the firm’s boundaries, Helfat & Winter, 2011), and few other means allow or-
in particular studying the role of features of the ex- ganizations to purposefully change on a continuous
ternal environment such as environmental dynamism basis (Day & Wensley, 1988; Helfat et al., 2007).
(Fawcett, Wallin, Allred, Fawcett, & Magnan, 2011; Given this theoretical importance, it is not surpris-
Killen, Jugdev, Drouin, & Petit, 2012) and the in- ing that numerous studies have focused on various
terorganizational structure in which the firm is em- consequences of dynamic capabilities. In total, 113
bedded (Jansen, Van Den Bosch, & Volberda, 2005; studies have analyzed the effect of dynamic capabil-
Roberts & Grover, 2012). These investigations high- ities on firm-level performance outcomes frequently
light that firms’ efforts to build dynamic capabilities used in strategy research, such as competitive ad-
do not occur in a vacuum but are substantially affected vantage or financial performance, with most of the
by the broader organizational environment. Fawcett, studies positing and/or finding a positive effect. Ad-
Fawcett, Watson, and Magnan (2012), for instance, ditional support for this claim comes from many of the
described competitive pressures in the industry as 40 studies that draw on the notion of external fitness
a strong motivator that led firms to develop in- and expand the empirical metrics of firm performance
terorganizational collaboration capabilities. In addi- to include indicators such as survival, growth, and
tion, Zheng, Zhang, and Du (2011) linked network flexibility.6
embeddedness to dynamic capabilities. These authors In addition to these broad firm-level outcomes,
found that relational embeddedness facilitated researchers have looked at more domain- or
knowledge acquisition capability and that the di- function-specific outcomes, including acquisitions,
versity of network and joint problem-solving contrib- product quality, and supply chain performance. This
uted to knowledge combination capability. approach is much in line with the recommendations
All of these investigations show that substantial of Ray et al. (2004) to select appropriate outcome
progress has been made in elucidating under what variables that are sufficiently close to a study’s focal
conditions firms are likely to possess dynamic ca- type of capability. Generally, these studies show that
pabilities. A host of studies have built on Teece et al.’s dynamic capabilities can enhance a variety of
(1997) framework, which emphasized prior paths domain-specific outcomes. For example, Zollo and
and resource positions as relevant enabling condi- Singh (2004) reported a positive effect of a firm’s
tions of dynamic capabilities (also see Eisenhardt & postacquisition integration capability on its acqui-
Martin, 2000; Teece, 2007). Other studies have sition performance; Su, Linderman, Schroeder, and
extended this framework to consider a variety Van de Ven (2014) suggested that a meta-learning
of additional factors that may affect dynamic capability helps sustain a high level of product
Consequences. As noted earlier, a key reason 6
External fitness refers to the extent of fit between the
that many management scholars have become in- firm and its environment. Quantitative measures of exter-
terested in dynamic capabilities is their proposed in- nal fitness include traditional metrics of firm performance
fluence on important outcome variables. Indeed, the such as profitability as well as indicators such as survival
performance-enhancing effect of dynamic capabilities and growth (Helfat et al., 2007).
406 Academy of Management Annals January

quality performance, whereas capabilities for sens- our sample explicitly examined possible causal
ing weak signals and resilience improve the consis- mechanisms, suggesting a significant gap in the lit-
tency of product quality performance; and Golgeci erature to which we will return later.
and Ponomarov (2013) reported evidence that a Moderators. Another important refinement in
firm’s innovative capability can be a key contributor recent theorizing and empirical work on the conse-
to supply chain resilience. quences of dynamic capabilities rests on the recogni-
Finally, 26 investigations have refrained from tion that such effects tend to be highly context specific.
studying consequences in terms of performance and Increasingly, researchers have started to follow a con-
instead have focused on organizational change as the tingent approach (Aragon-Correa & Sharma, 2003) and
dependent variable, examining changes in the re- have identified relevant moderators of the effects of
source base (Ambrosini, Bowman, & Collier, 2009; dynamic capabilities. The most frequently stud-
Stadler et al., 2013) and learning of various types ied moderator is that of environmental dynamism.
(Agarwal, Echambadi, Franco, & Sarkar, 2004; Schilke (2014a), for example, finds the dynamic
Easterby-Smith & Prieto, 2008). As predicted by capabilities–firm performance link to be the strongest
these authors, dynamic capabilities were found to under intermediate levels of environmental dyna-
help firms to bring about organizational change as mism, whereas it is comparatively weaker when dy-
well as to learn a variety of activities. namism is either low (and there may be fewer
Mechanisms. Although organizational change opportunities to amortize the cost of dynamic capa-
was often treated as the final explanandum, 11 bilities development and maintenance) or high (and
studies in our sample have explicitly modeled environmental changes may be too abrupt and un-
a multi-step causal chain, in which resource changes foreseeable to fully leverage planned strategic change).
are the intermediate outcomes of dynamic capabil- The 44 studies that model environmental dynamism
ities, and these resource changes are the causal as a contingency variable alleviate criticism of some
mechanisms7 through which dynamic capabilities earlier research that made it a component of dynamic
affect performance outcomes (e.g., Karimi & Walter, capabilities or a precondition per definitionem (cf.
2015; Protogerou, Caloghirou, & Lioukas, 2012). Zahra et al., 2006). This line of work instead provides
Consistent with the theoretical positions of Eisenhardt support for the claim that although environmental
and Martin (2000), Helfat and Peteraf (2003), Zahra dynamism is likely to be a highly relevant condition
et al. (2006), and Zott (2003), among others, these re- determining the extent to which dynamic capabilities
searchers have argued that dynamic capabilities’ may affect organizational outcomes such as firm per-
immediate purpose is to change the resource base, formance, dynamic capabilities can in principle exist
and that this change in the resource base, in turn, and help firms compete in both relatively stable and
explains performance variations. According to highly dynamic environments (Helfat & Winter, 2011).
this argument, resource changes serve as media- Consistent with this logic, environmental dynamism
tors through which dynamic capabilities affect has now been accepted as a central contingency vari-
performance. able in dynamic capabilities theorizing.
We believe that explicitly modeling the causal In addition to environmental dynamism, re-
mechanisms that explain the performance effect of searchers have also studied interactions of dynamic
dynamic capabilities is a particularly meritorious capabilities with other variables, including other
endeavor. Interestingly, change in the resource base types of organizational capabilities (18 studies). For
is by far the most frequently studied mechanism, to example, there is evidence of a negative interaction
the exclusion of other potentially important media- effect between first-order dynamic capabilities (i.e.,
tors. As we noted at the outset, dynamic capabilities those that change the resource base) and second-order
may directly alter features of the external environ- dynamic capabilities (i.e., those that change first-
ment. Little research, however, has investigated this order dynamic capabilities), such that the two func-
or other mediators, which in turn affect performance tion as substitutes in positively affecting performance
outcomes. In fact, only four percent of the articles in outcomes (Schilke, 2014b). In other words, with in-
creasing levels of second-order dynamic capabilities,
In this article, we use the term “mechanism” to repre- the marginal effect of first-order dynamic capabilities
sent a variable through which an independent variable on performance outcomes diminishes—possibly be-
causally affects an outcome (Imai, Tingley, & Yamamoto, cause dynamic capabilities on both levels are primarily
2013: 7). That is, we consider “mechanism” as quasi- employed to attain the similar end of strategic change
synonymous with “mediator” (Baron & Kenny, 1986). and thus may exhibit some element of equifinality.
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 407

Additional moderators that have received recent at- capabilities theorizing (see Mohr, 1982; Van de Ven
tention include organizational strategy (Carpenter, & Poole, 2005 for the general distinction between
Sanders, & Gregersen, 2001; Engelen, Kube, Schmidt, & variance and process theories). For example, at-
Flatten, 2014), organizational size (Arend, 2015; tempts have been made to explain the evolution of
O’Reilly, Harreld, & Tushman, 2009), organizational dynamic capabilities over time (e.g., Fischer, Gebauer,
culture (O’Connor, 2008; Slater, Mohr, & Sengupta, Gregory, Ren, & Fleisch, 2010; Jenkins, 2010). These
2014), industry sector (Pandza & Thorpe, 2009; Piening, studies suggest that the development of dynamic ca-
2013), geographic area (Brouthers, Brouthers, & pabilities may proceed through a series of typical
Werner, 2008; Parente, Baack, & Hahn, 2011), and stages, knowledge of which may prove particularly
interorganizational networks (Ambrosini & Bowman, useful for practitioners attempting to implement such
2009; Subramaniam & Youndt, 2005), among others. capabilities. Process-oriented studies have also shed
These studies on relevant moderators have helped to light on the role of timing. For instance, Bingham,
infuse the dynamic capabilities perspective with Heimeriks, Schijven, and Gates (2015) found codifi-
a more contingent approach—one that explicitly con- cation of knowledge to be most effective in supporting
siders that the effectiveness of dynamic capabilities the development of dynamic capabilities when such
may depend on the specific internal and external sit- codification occurs in reverse chronological order,
uation. Overall, we believe these studies have signifi- starting with the implementation phase and working
cantly helped to address earlier criticisms regarding backward through the earlier phases, such as due
the perspective’s ill-defined boundary conditions diligence in the case of the acquisition capabilities
(Arend & Bromiley, 2009). in this study. This role of codification extends the
Summary of the organizing framework. The or- theoretical arguments of Zollo and Winter (2002),
ganizing framework just described provides a com- who emphasized the importance of codification of
prehensive approach for understanding dynamic knowledge in developing dynamic capabilities, by
capabilities that, while based in prior work, provides adding a temporal component to the codification
a new way of framing research on the topic. Notably, it process.
shows that the study of dynamic capabilities has ad- This interest in how dynamic capabilities emerge,
vanced to a point at which the literature comprises not develop, grow, or terminate over time mirrors the
only conceptual research but also a great deal of em- increased interest in process approaches in manage-
pirical work that includes antecedents and conse- ment more generally (Langley, Smallman, Tsoukas, &
quences of dynamic capabilities, as well as moderators Van de Ven, 2013). We believe that studying the evo-
and mediators. Extant research has paid the most at- lution of dynamic capabilities and the role of time is
tention to the antecedents and consequences of dy- highly consistent with the focus of dynamic capabil-
namic capabilities, with some attention to moderators, ities on strategic change. Such change is clearly not
and scholars are only starting to look into causal achieved instantaneously but only over time and
mechanisms (i.e., mediators). through multiple steps, and there is significant op-
In addition to providing an overview of what al- portunity to more carefully unpack the individual
ready has been achieved, our framework also pro- stages involved, along with their sequencing and
vides a basis for future research, as discussed later. potentially reciprocal nature.
However, before we turn to avenues for future re- Research methods. Last but not least, dynamic
search, we briefly summarize two additional topics capabilities research has clearly progressed from
that surfaced in our analysis regarding dynamics being a mostly conceptual undertaking to become
and research methods. a predominantly empirical field. Around two-thirds
of the articles in our sample report empirical find-
ings, with survey and qualitative methods being
Additional Considerations
most prominent (33 percent and 23 percent of the
Dynamics. As reflected in the model shown in articles in the full sample, respectively). We believe
Figure 2, most of the researchers have adopted that this trend is encouraging as it requires re-
a variance-based approach to theorizing, whereby searchers to specify empirical measures indicative
a change in one variable is associated with a change of dynamic capabilities. Moreover, initial meta-
in another variable (e.g., more experience in a certain analyses of dynamic capabilities have recently star-
field produces more dynamic capabilities). How- ted to appear (Fainshmidt et al., 2016; Karna, Richter,
ever, some scholars have also started to develop & Riesenkampff, 2016; Pezeshkan, Fainshmidt, Nair,
a temporal, process-oriented approach to dynamic Lance Frazier, & Markowski, 2016). Studies like
408 Academy of Management Annals January

these help to synthesize and systematically juxta- suggestions regarding the consequences (96 articles)
pose extant findings and add further nuance by ex- and the antecedents (80 articles) of dynamic capa-
ploring sources of heterogeneous effects. bilities. Table 3 provides an overview of frequencies
Even among recent theoretical investigations, we along with selected illustrative quotes.
have witnessed a greater diversity of approaches, Before elaborating on the various suggestions that
ranging from traditional narrative theory develop- have been made in prior research, it is worth noting
ment to formal modeling (e.g., Mitchell & Skrzypacz, that several of the limitations and recommended
2015) and agent-based simulations (e.g., Coen & avenues for future research that we identified in our
Maritan, 2011). Through their complementarities, sample have already been addressed, at least to some
these different methods and approaches hold great extent, in subsequent research. Indeed, we were
promise for the further development and refinement surprised by the degree to which dynamic capabil-
of the dynamic capabilities perspective. ities scholars have seemed to agree on promising
directions for new research and then have followed
up on the potential gaps identified by previous re-
search. This indicates that the dynamic capabilities
field has come a long way in a short period of time,
Although these recent insights strongly support evolving into a coherent research program charac-
the value of the dynamic capabilities perspective terized by cumulative progress. Nevertheless, more
and help to flesh out central elements of the theory, progress is warranted, as we discuss later.
additional research is needed to more fully develop
the dynamic capabilities perspective. We begin with
Theoretical Foundations
a content analysis of what prior research has identi-
fied as important limitations and fruitful avenues for Definitions. As noted earlier, we observed con-
new research and use this as a basis for our own as- siderable convergence in the definition of dynamic
sessment and recommendations for future research capabilities, even if 15 articles in our sample suggest
on dynamic capabilities. In making recommenda- that consensus on a single definition has not been
tions, we focus on issues that we believe would achieved. Although there is not one single definition,
benefit from additional attention above and beyond the three most used definitions of Teece et al. (1997),
what has already been achieved in recent years. We Eisenhardt and Martin (2000), and Helfat et al. (2007)
highlight important topics that may have gone un- are complementary and build on one another. The
noticed thus far, as well as unresolved tensions in the other frequently used definitions are highly consis-
literature. In addition, we flag a few areas that we tent with these three. In addition, definitions such as
believe either do not require substantial new re- that of Helfat et al. (2007) have clarified that dynamic
search or would benefit from reorientation. capabilities do not involve a tautology with respect
In discussing future research directions, we follow to performance, and Helfat and Winter (2011) have
the same structure that we adopted in the previous incorporated the potential to influence the external
section, starting with theoretical foundations, then environment in their definition. In our view, because
proceeding through the individual parts of the these definitions have built on one another to
organizing framework for dynamic capabilities, achieve considerable clarity, converging on a single
and finally turning to additional considerations of general definition is not a high priority. However,
dynamics and methods. In each subsection, we start whichever reference a researcher uses, we find it
with a brief summary of the content-analytic results critically important to explicitly state a concrete
regarding potential research directions noted in definition of dynamic capabilities so as to avoid
prior work, listing those issues that have been men- ambiguity. In addition, subcategories of dynamic
tioned particularly frequently as warranting further capabilities certainly require precise definitions in
study. This is followed in each subsection by our line with preexisting general definitions, such as that
more subjective assessment, along with our recom- which Adner and Helfat (2003) provided for dy-
mendations that go beyond those mentioned in ear- namic managerial capabilities in line with the gen-
lier articles. eral definition of dynamic capabilities in Teece et al.
Of the 298 articles that we content analyzed, 220 (1997).
(i.e., 74 percent) reported at least one limitation or In addition to using an explicit definition of dy-
direction for future research. Issues related to mod- namic capabilities, we believe it is important for
erators were most frequent (109 articles), followed by authors to provide a clear elaboration of why an
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 409

Illustrative Evidence for Suggested Limitations and Future Research Recommendations
Concept Illustrative statements (percentage)a

Theoretical foundations
Definition “Despite its importance for firm prosperity and the scholarly attention devoted 15 (5.0%)
to it, dynamic capability remains underspecified (. . .). In particular, the
‘competence to add competences’ has not been systematically
conceptualized (. . .).” (Danneels, 2008: 519)
[Clarity of definition]
“In spite of the consensus that dynamic capabilities play a crucial role in
competitive advantage, complete consensus in defining the term has not
been achieved.” (Argote & Ren, 2012: 1375)
[Convergence of definitions]
Theoretical assumption “More generally, particular attention should be given to the assumptions 14 (4.7%)
underlying dynamic capabilities’ theoretical underpinnings, namely, the
assumptions about managerial rationality. Perhaps some choices need to be
made between a more bounded rationality-oriented approach, in line with
evolutionary economics, and a more full rationality-oriented approach, as
suggested by the RBV.” (Barreto, 2010:277)
“Examining the assumptions about individuals’ rationality (. . .) is important.”
(Capron & Mitchell, 2009: 309)
[Bounded rationality]
“The dynamic capabilities framework invites further research into (. . .) the
role of managers and leaders in enterprise performance.” (Augier & Teece,
2009: 418)
[Managerial agency]
Theory integration “The current literature tends not to distinguish between incremental dynamic 21 (7.1%)
capabilities and renewing dynamic capabilities. (. . .) there is value in
conceptually developing the paper, for example by extending it further into
the learning (. . .) literature.” (Ambrosini et al., 2009: S21)
[Organizational learning]
“Thus, we also recommend that the DCV draw more deeply on the sizable,
more-established ENT literature for added insights (. . .).” (Arend, 2014: 49)
“Taken together, these insights underpin the need for resource-based theorists
to broaden their scope and embrace other perspectives (e.g., institutional
theory, social cognition approaches) to more fully understand how dynamic
capabilities and resources develop.” (Schilke, 2014b: 376)

Organizing framework for dynamic capabilities

Dimensionalization- “Future research is encouraged to explore (. . .) knowledge acquisition 27 (9.1%)
underlying capability, integration capability and coordination capability.” (Chang, Bai,
processes & Li, 2015: 27)
“For example, future empirical work could be directed towards the
enrichment of this study’s framework with additional dimensions focusing
on the entrepreneurial function embedded in dynamic capabilities i.e.
managerial capabilities for sensing and seizing opportunities.” (Protogerou
et al., 2012: 641)
“Dynamic capabilities theory explains when organizations need flexible
processes, but it is less forthcoming on how those processes work.” (Harris
et al., 2009: 402–403)
Dimensionalization- “Future (possibly qualitative) research should take up the challenge of 8 (2.7%)
routinization investigating the interplay between highly routinized and ad hoc resource
reconfiguration in greater detail.” (Schilke, 2014a: 199)
410 Academy of Management Annals January

Concept Illustrative statements (percentage)a

“(. . .) we believe future work can gain considerably deeper insight into the
interplay between routinization and ad hoc problem solving.” (Heimeriks
et al., 2012: 721)
Dimensionalization- “Additional studies could expand the focus of our analysis to include inter- 67 (22.5%)
functional domain firm integration (. . .).” (Vanpoucke et al., 2014: 459)
“Moreover, an extension of this thinking could further address whether the
model of radical innovation capability suggested here needs to be modified
(. . .).” (Slater et al., 2014: 563–564)
[New product development]
“Other organizational capabilities, such as stakeholder integration and
continuous operations improvement, may be included in the study to
explore environmental management capabilities (. . .).” (Wong, 2013: 131)
Dimensionalization- “(. . .) three levels of dynamic capability could be researched empirically to 14 (4.7%)
capabilities find evidence to give them greater depth and allow for more understanding
hierarchy of the concepts.” (Ambrosini et al., 2009: S21)
“Further, it would be interesting to investigate the effects of widely used meta-
routines (. . .) on dynamic capabilities.” (Pentland, Feldman, Becker, & Liu,
2012: 1504)
Dimensionalization- “Embracing a multilevel perspective, future research could also consider 42 (14.1%)
unit of analysis individual-level constructs (such as characteristics of the managers
involved in strategic alliances).” (Schilke & Goerzen, 2010: 1213)
“Future research would benefit from examining more precisely the interaction
of individual characteristics of key players and the tools and practices they
use to achieve innovation and firm growth.” (Uhlaner, van Stel, Duplat, &
Zhou, 2013: 605)
“We also know relatively little about how the interaction of cognitive
capabilities of individuals in the top management team affects team decision
making, (. . .) Future research could investigate whether diversity of
managerial cognitive capabilities within a team helps or hinders strategic
change.” (Helfat & Peteraf, 2015: 846)
“New theory may arise that relates activities outside the organization’s
boundaries to dynamic capabilities (. . .) of the organization.
Ultimately, a dynamic theory of firm boundaries may emerge from such
inquiry.” (McGahan, 2012: 16)
[Beyond firm boundary]
Dimensionalization- “(. . .) work that conceives metacognition, emotion management, and self- 6 (2.0%)
other regulation as core dynamic managerial capabilities.” (Hodgkinson & Healey,
dimensionalization 2011: 1511)
approach [Cognitive subdimensions]
“Using other, more detailed relationship phase models would result in
different NC components.” (Mitrega et al., 2012: 749)
[Temporal phases]
Antecedents “(. . .) future research can theoretically extend our model by identifying 80 (26.9%)
country, industry (. . .) variables that are antecedent to the dynamic
capability development mechanisms identified in our model.” (Malik &
Kotabe, 2009: 444)
“Other factors that may also drive or constrain capital misallocation include
(. . .) external factors such as market dynamics and pressures from
investors.” (Arrfelt et al., 2015: 1032)
[External environment]
“Further investigation can improve the understanding of factors that affect
dynamic capabilities (. . .) such as (. . .) organizational culture (. . .).” (Cheng,
Chen, & Huang, 2014: 183)
[Organizational culture]
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 411

Concept Illustrative statements (percentage)a

“Second, given the value-creating potential of marketing capabilities revealed

in our study, it is important to know how such capabilities are developed.”
(Morgan et al., 2009: 917)
Consequences “Given the rising competitive pressure accompanying globalization and rapid 96 (32.2%)
technological advancement, assessing the influence of a dynamic
collaborative capability on firm competitiveness is timely.” (Allred et al.,
2011: 130)
[Firm-level performance]
“However, more research is needed to explore the long-term effects (. . .) on
project and firm level innovation outcomes.” (Im et al., 2013: 182)
[Innovation outcomes]
“Further research on this line could analyze the effect of this capability on
firms’ ability to overcome technological gaps.” (J. Anand et al., 2010: 1228)
“Moreover, we did not examine the costs of the process, (. . .), we encourage
additional studies in management control on the costs of dynamic
capabilities.” (Donada, Nogatchewsky, & Pezet, 2016: 112)
Mechanisms “For instance, it is possible that dynamic capabilities influence performance 28 (9.4%)
through specific organizational capabilities (. . .) or top management team
competencies (. . .). Future research may benefit from incorporating such
mediating mechanisms into a model of the dynamic capabilities-
performance relationship.” (Wilden et al., 2013: 89)
[Resource base]
“(. . .) an examination of additional potential mediating mechanisms (i.e.,
intermediate outcomes) between higher-order dynamic capabilities and
performance would likely enhance our understanding of the consequences
of dynamic capabilities.” (Fainshmidt et al., 2016: 1369)
“Moreover, we need deeper insight into the variety of mechanisms that
underlie the performance effects of capabilities.” (Schilke, 2014a: 199)
“(. . .) although MDCs have been found to positively affect IJV performance and
competitive advantage, the specific mechanism through which such an
effect takes place is left to be investigate.” (Fang & Zou, 2009: 757)
Moderators- “Further specifying and explaining contingencies such as organization type or 73 (24.5%)
organizational structure may be an interesting avenue for future research.” (Fourné, Jansen,
characteristics & Mom, 2014: 30)
“(. . .) it would be useful to determine how dynamic capability can reconfigure
the existing “ordinary” resource base to render it suitable to drive the
EO–performance relationship. (. . .) the research on the interaction of
“ordinary” and dynamic capabilities is still in its infancy.” (Engelen et al.,
2014: 1364)
[Other capabilities]
“The resource allocation process in smaller, entrepreneurial firms is likely to
differ from the process in larger firms. Small firms may not have well
established resource allocation practices and procedures in place.” (Coen &
Maritan, 2011: 114)
Moderators- “Indeed, we hope that this research will trigger further research into the nature 73 (24.5%)
setting and value of incremental learning capabilities in the public sector and
beyond.” (Salge & Vera, 2013: 170)
[Industry sector]
“The data also come mainly from European respondents. Although our tests
supported the findings in other regions, further research could look into
possible geographical differences.” (Vanpoucke et al., 2014: 459)
[Geographic area]
412 Academy of Management Annals January

Concept Illustrative statements (percentage)a

“Finally, future research could also explore the temporal pacing by which
dynamic capabilities affect operating-routine performance under varying
levels of environmental dynamism or the occurrence of exogenous shocks.”
(Wilhelm et al., 2015: 342)
[Environmental dynamism]
“On the empirical front, the clear implication of our work is that scholars need
to take into account the relevant contingencies in their investigation before
they can predict and test for particular outcomes of dynamic capabilities.”
(Peteraf et al., 2013: 1407)
Additional considerations
Dynamics “Further research needs to consider how project capabilities evolve, grow and 21 (7.1%)
ultimately decline during a life cycle from birth to maturity.” (Davies &
Brady, 2016: 322)
“How does managerial IS use at different levels in the organization influence
the evolution of organizational capabilities?” (Roberts et al., 2016: 65)
“A future longitudinal study would be desirable to complement this research
study by revealing the evolution of the associations between the dimensions
of EII, corporate environmental innovativeness and adaptability, and
business and environmental performance.” (Wong, 2013: 131)
[Timing of effects]
“Such studies may also be able to shed light on the question of whether the
performance effects of dynamic capabilities at various levels are more
pronounced in the short or long term.” (Schilke, 2014b: 376)
[Unstable theoretical effect]
“The emphasis of TPS (. . .) is on complex routines and organizational
mechanisms. The emphasis of EM (. . .) is on simple routines and managerial
mechanisms. Both levels of analysis and both types of mechanisms are
important and both at work within the firm, either sequentially or
simultaneously. (. . .) Really understanding dynamic capabilities requires
seeing the complete picture and exploring interlinked dynamic bundles as
a whole.” (Peteraf et al., 2013: 1407)
Methods- “(. . .) we believe our field’s understanding of the temporal processes behind 71 (23.8%)
internal validity capability development could benefit greatly from longitudinal work that
either uses quantitative panel data or is based on an inductive, theory-
building approach (or, perhaps, both).” (Heimeriks et al., 2012: 721)
[Issues with causality]
“Sixth, we did not control for the level of mode-specific experience each firm
had. It is possible that mode experience may also provide some type of
resource-based advantage. Future research may wish to explore this idea.”
(Brouthers et al., 2008: 214)
[Issues with omitted variables]
Methods- “We conclude that the findings reported here support this basic hypothesis, 99 (33.2%)
external validity although specific findings may not be readily generalized to other industries
and to larger firms. (. . .) Future research might extend our approach to other
professional service industries, and possibly to other sectors and larger firms
as well.” (Døving & Gooderham, 2008: 855)
[Issues with generalizability]
“At the same time, we acknowledge the limitations of the low response rate for
the APICS data.” (Wu, Melnyk, & Flynn, 2010: 745)
[Issues with (survey) response]
Methods- “(. . .) our measures of capital allocation competency may be too stringent in 78 (26.2%)
construct validity defining over and underinvestment, thus limiting the number of recorded
allocation errors in our study.” (Arrfelt et al., 2015: 1032)
[Issues with operationalization of construct]
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 413

Concept Illustrative statements (percentage)a

“(. . .) we rely on subjective staff perceptions of the three incremental learning

routines. (. . .) Future research might thus wish to collect objective rather
than subjective data to capture the constitutive routines of incremental
learning.” (Salge & Vera, 2013: 170)
[Issues with data source]
Methods- “It would also be valuable for further research to use different empirical 79 (26.5%)
statistical methods to capture the relationship between a firm’s constraints, sourcing
conclusion validity modes, and ultimate performance.” (Capron & Mitchell, 2009: 309)
[Issues with analysis method]
“Unfortunately, collecting longitudinal data on constructs that cannot readily
be assessed from archival sources, such as second-order competences or
organizational culture, poses tremendous data collection challenges. (. . .)
This relatively small sample size limited the inferences from the
longitudinal analysis.” (Danneels, 2008: 537–538)
[Issues with sample size]

Frequency is the total number of articles referring to or using the concept, and percentage is the frequency divided by the total number of
articles coded (298).

article’s focal construct can be considered an in- 2010; Capron & Mitchell, 2009). Although consid-
stance of dynamic capability. Not every form of erable headway has been made (Augier & Teece,
change is evidence of a dynamic capability. More- 2008; Augier & Teece, 2009), from our perspective,
over, because dynamic capabilities (like all capabil- the extent to which managers are boundedly rational
ities) are context dependent, instances of dynamic and under what particular circumstances they can be
capabilities pertain to a particular activity and set- expected to deviate from full rationality would ben-
ting (see our discussion above). For this reason, in efit from greater explanation (an issue we will come
empirical work, we believe it is imperative to zoom back to later).
in on a particular instance of dynamic capabilities Future research would in our view also benefit
(e.g., associated with a specific functional activity). from greater elaboration of agency in the dynamic
When authors of empirical analyses explain how capabilities framework, following up on recent in-
their object of study is consistent with the core fea- vestigations into this matter (Augier & Teece, 2009;
tures of dynamic capabilities, such as supporting Es-Sajjade & Pandza, 2012; Helfat & Martin, 2015;
patterned behavior directed toward strategic change, Helfat & Peteraf, 2015; Salvato, 2009). For example,
this helps to generalize their findings to the broader under what conditions are managers able to signifi-
and more abstract level of dynamic capabilities the- cantly alter their own and their organizations’
ory. Conversely, a lack of fit between the object of (change) routines? What is the role of employees at
study and the definition of dynamic capabilities se- different levels in the organizational hierarchy for
verely limits the extent to which a research study can strategic change? More broadly, when and how can
advance understanding of dynamic capabilities. organizations overcome the paradox of embedded
Theoretical assumptions. Given the mix of eco- agency and be able to envision and affect change in
nomic and behavioral theories that provide the their external environment, despite environmental
foundations of the dynamic capabilities perspective pressures that structure their cognitions, define their
(Arend & Bromiley, 2009; Peteraf et al., 2013), we interests, and influence their identities? Questions
believe that the perspective will gain additional like these should provide plenty of fodder for future
theoretical depth from efforts to further elaborate and studies on the theoretical foundations of the dy-
develop its theoretical assumptions—a point made namic capabilities perspective.
by 14 articles in our sample. One area that we would Theoretical integration. One of the features that
like to single out for further elaboration concerns the makes the dynamic capabilities framework highly
stance on managers’ rationality (also see Barreto, approachable for scholars with diverse backgrounds
414 Academy of Management Annals January

is its openness and flexibility in integrating relevant to environmental institutions can also come with
ideas from other theoretical streams. We believe that important disadvantages, such as a decrease in
following this trajectory and constructively bringing technical efficacy or a weakening of differentiation-
in other perspectives is important to further develop based competitive advantage (Heugens & Lander,
the dynamic capabilities framework and advance 2009; Meyer & Rowan, 1977). We believe dynamic
our current understanding of purposeful strategic capabilities scholars would be well advised to
change, as 21 articles in our sample emphasize. For consider whether resisting environmental confor-
example, in our content analysis of future research mity pressures may be a sensible option for some
directions, we observed a high frequency of articles organizations (Oliver, 1991; Schilke, forthcoming).
suggesting stronger integration of the dynamic ca- Second, in studying the organizational environ-
pabilities perspective with the broader entrepre- ment, dynamic capabilities scholars have for the
neurship literature (Augier & Teece, 2009; MacLean most part focused on issues related to technology or
et al., 2015). Moreover, building on the early work of customer demand. Although these are highly rele-
Zollo and Winter (2002), the organizational learning vant aspects of the environment, we propose that
literature has been identified as another candidate the understanding of the organizational environ-
for further enriching the dynamic capabilities per- ment developed by institutionalists could prove
spective (Ambrosini & Bowman, 2009; Easterby- highly informative for dynamic capabilities theo-
Smith & Prieto, 2008). Although recent research has rizing. Building on the seminal work by DiMaggio
made headway on this, such as in the theoretical and Powell (1983), institutionalists have singled
implications drawn by Bingham et al. (2015) in their out mimetic, normative, and coercive pressures as
study of concurrent learning, it is our belief that this critical environmental forces imposed on organi-
area merits additional investigation. zations, and it would be interesting to study the
At the same time, we think that other theoretical extent to which different types of dynamic capa-
streams, beyond those identified in our content bilities may be useful in dealing with these various
analysis of future directions, offer relevant insights environmental pressures (Oliver, 1997).
that have been underused in dynamic capabilities Third, institutionalists have recently devoted
research. These literatures include those on in- great effort to better understanding embedded
stitutional theory, heuristics and biases, the behav- agency (Battilana, 2006; Battilana & D’Aunno, 2009;
ioral theory of the firm and closely related but Schilke, forthcoming; Suddaby, Viale, & Gendron,
underused areas of evolutionary economics, and 2016). In doing so, they have advanced the notion of
transaction cost economics. institutional entrepreneurship (Battilana, Leca, &
Institutional theory shares with the dynamic ca- Boxenbaum, 2009; Maguire, Hardy, & Lawrence,
pabilities perspective a strong emphasis on habit- 2004), whereby change agents (either organizations
ualized action (Greenwood, Oliver, Sahlin, & or individuals) create new institutions or transform
Suddaby, 2008); the concept of organizational rou- existing ones. Initiating and implementing divergent
tines resonates strongly with the idea of institu- change is clearly also at the heart of Teece’s (2007)
tionalization, whereby specific cognitions and intriguing but underinvestigated notion of market
actions become objectified and ultimately exterior shaping, and we encourage dynamic capabilities
to the individual (Tolbert & Zucker, 1996). Moreover, scholars to build on these recent developments in
both literatures have at their center an interest in how institutional theory and explore ways to apply
organizations navigate the interface with their envi- them.8
ronment. As a result, we see significant potential for Furthermore, we support ongoing efforts to infuse
greater cross-fertilization between them. the dynamic capabilities perspective with psycho-
Specifically, we can envision at least three con- logical theory on heuristics (Bingham & Eisenhardt,
crete ways in which institutional theory may enrich
dynamic capabilities scholarship. First, whereas 8
It is worth noting that the study of market shaping can
both literatures are fundamentally concerned with
also be undertaken from the perspective of behavioral
the organization–environment interaction, dynamic
theory and evolutionary economics discussed later, as or-
capabilities scholars have viewed organizational ad- ganizations not only search for new knowledge and capa-
aptation to the external environment as mostly bene- bilities, but also shape their environments over time (see
ficial, focusing on strategic fit. Institutional theorists, Gavetti, Helfat, & Marengo, 2017). Thus, dynamic capa-
on the other hand, have studied conformity with bilities may also benefit from integrating this approach to
a more critical stance, emphasizing that adherence market shaping.
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 415

2011; Maghzi, Gudergan, Wilden, & Lin, 2016). The versus inhibit performance outcomes should pro-
notion of heuristics (and the related concept of sim- vide plenty of opportunity for future research.
ple rules, per Sull & Eisenhardt, 2015) has loomed Another relevant literature that is attracting in-
prominently in the debate about dynamic capabil- creasing attention in work on dynamic capabilities—
ities (Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000), but—compared but that we believe could still benefit from additional
with the routine-based approach—it has seen rela- integration—is related to the behavioral theory of the
tively less theoretical progress over the years. With firm (Augier & Teece, 2008; Winter, 2000). As noted
the shift toward microfoundations, we believe there earlier, many assumptions and intellectual founda-
is potential to focus more on heuristics. It is clear that tions central to dynamic capabilities are rooted in the
we need greater insight into how individuals employ behavioral theory of the firm (Cyert & March, 1963;
dynamic capabilities and come to make decisions Simon, 1957). According to this theory, decision
regarding strategic change, so as to better understand makers are boundedly rational and satisficing; that is,
how dynamic capabilities operate on the ground. they initiate search based on organizational perfor-
We believe that building on recent disciplinary mance relative to aspirations and slack resources.
insights can help us understand what types of heu- Furthermore, the behavior of firms is viewed as resting
ristics managers draw from in employing dynamic primarily on their routines, particularly those for stor-
capabilities, when they most likely use them, and ing knowledge, adapting aspirations, allocating atten-
whether doing so will be effective. Cognitive psy- tion, and adapting the rules of organizational adaptation.
chologists, such as Gigerenzer and colleagues, have Clearly, the dynamic capabilities perspective is
significantly advanced the knowledge of heuristics well aligned with these positions, as evidenced by
(Artinger, Petersen, Gigerenzer, & Weibler, 2014; Winter’s (2000) analysis of aspirations and satisfic-
Gigerenzer & Gaissmaier, 2011). Regarding relevant ing in the development of dynamic capabilities. In
types of heuristics, Gigerenzer and Todd (1999) addition, Ocasio’s (1997) elaborations of the behav-
propose three higher-order building blocks: (1) ioral theory of the firm imply that the distribution of
search rules that determine what information is ex- attention to certain issues and answers may also be
plored and in what order, (2) stopping rules that an important aspect of dynamic capabilities, as sug-
determine when to stop searching for cues, and (3) gested by Helfat and Peteraf (2015). Indeed, the be-
decision rules that indicate how to make a decision, havioral theory of the firm suggests that it is the
given the collected information. The potential ap- dynamic nature of attention and aspirations that
plicability of these building blocks to the sensing and enables search and the generation of new (entrepre-
seizing microfoundations of dynamic capabilities is neurship) opportunities. Similarly, other studies
apparent, but it requires further elaboration to make following the behavioral tradition (Hu, Blettner, &
the building blocks more directly applicable to the Bettis, 2011; Hu, He, Blettner, & Bettis, 2017) em-
context of organizational decision-making (Maghzi phasize the important performance implications of
et al., 2016). Heuristics have other salient applica- aspiration adaptation speed, attention allocation
tions to dynamic capabilities as well. Heuristics are dynamics, and reference group setting strategies
commonly applied under conditions when people within firms. Thus, further integration of the dy-
must make decisions under uncertainty, with in- namic capabilities paradigm with the behavioral
complete information, unknown probabilities of theory of the firm is a rich avenue for future research.
potential outcomes, multiple goals, and ill-defined With respect to broader behavioral considerations,
problems (Gigerenzer & Gaissmaier, 2011). These there is also an opportunity to further integrate the
findings can provide a useful starting point for future literatures on social capital (Adner & Helfat, 2003;
research to study the antecedents to heuristics-based Kemper, Schilke, & Brettel, 2013) and social net-
deployment of dynamic capabilities. works (Kleinbaum & Stuart, 2014) into the dynamic
Finally, in our view, it is important to highlight that capabilities perspective.
although in the management literature heuristics Finally, we believe that dynamic capabilities re-
have traditionally been associated with biased or search would benefit from additional integration of
faulty decision-making, including with respect to two streams of research coming from an economics
dynamic capabilities (Teece, 2007), heuristics can also perspective: evolutionary economics (a close cousin
be highly effective and outcome enhancing (Mousavi & to the behavioral theory of the firm) and transactions
Gigerenzer, 2014; Todd & Gigerenzer, 2007). The cost economics. Although the original idea of dy-
question of whether and under what conditions namic capabilities by Teece et al. (1997) drew on
heuristics-based dynamic capabilities enhance evolutionary economics in important ways (see Foss,
416 Academy of Management Annals January

Heimeriks, Winter, & Zollo, 2012; Helfat & Peteraf, and that many distinct types of dynamic capabil-
2009), as noted earlier, the theory has primarily been ities exist. Different dimensions can be usefully
used with reference to routines. Although evolu- applied to categorize and distinguish dynamic
tionary economics has also informed the emphasis capabilities, which improves understanding of
on innovation in dynamic capabilities research, the how a study’s focal constructs fit with the broader
important role of search in evolutionary economics nature of dynamic capabilities. The literature has
has gone largely unnoticed by dynamic capabilities now advanced such that future researchers can
scholars. In particular, in evolutionary economics, explicitly situate their focal dynamic capabilities
search is local in the neighborhood of existing along some of the dimensions outlined in the pre-
knowledge and routines (Helfat, 1994; Piezunka & vious section (i.e., procedural, routinization, functional,
Dahlander, 2015); as a consequence, local search can hierarchical, by unit of analysis).
constrain adaptation to major market shifts. From A multitude of investigations have usefully built
this perspective, we believe it is important to ask on the procedural distinctions of Teece et al.’s (1997)
questions such as what types of dynamic capabilities coordinating, learning, and reconfiguring processes
enable firms to go beyond local search and under and Teece’s (2007) sensing, seizing, and trans-
what conditions? How might dynamic capabilities forming processes. Making these different organiza-
for search interact with dynamic capabilities for tional processes concrete has helped to enhance our
shaping firms’ external environments? And where in knowledge of how dynamic capabilities manifest
the organization might these different types of ca- themselves in organizations. But as 27 articles in our
pabilities for search and shaping reside? sample point out, further work on process di-
With respect to transactions cost economics, we mensions is needed, and we agree with this assess-
noted earlier that consideration of the boundaries of ment. Moving forward, it would be fruitful to add
the firm is a gap in the literature in dynamic capabil- greater richness to our understanding of these orga-
ities, with only a few articles referring explicitly to it. nizational processes, such as by providing in-depth
We agree with Jacobides and Winter (2005), Nickerson, accounts of how they work on the ground (Harris,
Yen, and Mahoney (2012), Argyres and Zenger (2012), Collins, & Hevner, 2009), by comparing their relative
and others that the analysis of many strategic decisions relevance across different settings, by studying their
would be incomplete without the consideration of both alignment as a set (Roberts & Grover, 2012), and by
organizational capabilities and transaction costs. For identifying overlaps or interconnections among
example, we know relatively little about the extent to them. Now may also be a good time to move beyond
which transactions costs affect which dynamic capa- these established procedural typologies and enrich
bilities firms develop and how this affects the bound- the dynamic capabilities framework with additional
ary of the firm with respect to capabilities. organizational processes that may have been pre-
Although the dynamic capabilities perspective is viously overlooked (Protogerou et al., 2012). That is,
likely to benefit from the creative combination of rather than take existing procedural distinctions for
different theories, we caution against making only granted, researchers may want to consider recom-
superficial contributions to theory. As previously bining, revising, or extending them.
noted in our Methods section, we dropped a total of Another distinction that has received considerable
47 articles from our sample that only referred to dy- attention since Eisenhardt and Martin’s (2000) orig-
namic capabilities cursorily and in passing, without inal discussion is that between highly structured and
visibly building on or contributing to the perspec- less-routinized forms of dynamic capabilities. Al-
tive’s key tenets. We would thus like to repeat though Winter (2003) convincingly argued that
Giudici and Reinmoeller’s (2012) call to avoid re- a certain degree of routinization is necessary for
ification of the dynamic capabilities concept. Con- a process to qualify as a dynamic capability, as we
tinued careful attention to how research tests, noted previously, it is clear that the degree of rou-
extends, or refutes specific elements of dynamic ca- tinization may vary and that such differences may
pabilities theory is central to enriching our current have important implications. This is why eight arti-
understanding of the phenomenon. cles call for further research on the routine aspect of
dynamic capabilities. Making significant headway
on this topic, a recent study by Wohlgemuth and
Organizing Framework for Dynamic Capabilities
Wenzel (2016) suggests that strongly routine-based
Dimensionalization. It is worth repeating that dy- and more fluid dynamic capabilities can coexist
namic capabilities are highly complex phenomena within the same organization. We see significant
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 417

opportunity for future research not only to in- capabilities are complements versus substitutes
vestigate the interplay between the two types of dy- and when operational and dynamic capabilities are
namic capabilities (also see Heimeriks, Schijven, & complements versus substitutes.
Gates, 2012; Peteraf et al., 2013; Schilke, 2014a) but to Traditionally, researchers have located dynamic
also shed light on their potentially distinct anteced- capabilities at the organizational level of analysis;
ents and their relative performance impacts. however, as noted earlier, starting in the early 2000s,
Furthermore, the notion of purposeful strategic the recognition that such capabilities can also exist at
change through dynamic capabilities can be applied the individual level has become increasingly dif-
to even more organizational functions and activities fused (Adner & Helfat, 2003; Augier & Teece, 2009;
than those that have been investigated thus far. Al- Felin & Foss, 2005; Helfat & Martin, 2015). Various
though 20 articles in our content-analysis sample calls for greater insight into individual-level dy-
called for additional investigation of new product namic capabilities (a total of 19 articles) have been
development—historically the most studied func- complemented by suggestions to consider additional
tional area within dynamic capabilities research— units of analysis, including units that go beyond firm
there is no shortage of suggestions for additional boundaries (10 articles). In particular, research on
areas worthy of study from a dynamic capabilities supply chain management has indicated that dy-
perspective, including environmental management namic capabilities may also operate at the in-
capabilities (Wong, 2013), political capabilities terorganizational level of the supply chain system,
(Dixon, Meyer, & Day, 2014), corporate restructuring an intriguing idea that we find worthy of greater re-
capabilities (Schilke, 2014b), and business model search attention. In addition, a particularly chal-
adaptation capabilities (Mezger, 2014; Wirtz, Schilke, & lenging but also potentially rewarding effort for
Ullrich, 2010). Ongoing areas of empirical investiga- future research would be to shed more light on cross-
tion into dynamic capabilities, on topics such as ac- level dynamics (also see Huikkola, Ylimäki, &
quisitions, alliances, and capital allocation, among Kohtamäki, 2013; Jansen et al., 2005; Salvato &
others, would also benefit from additional research. Rerup, 2011). Questions that we offer for future re-
And we see particular merit in studying more than search include, for instance, how exactly do dy-
one functional dynamic capability at once, so as to namic managerial capabilities affect organizational
uncover similarities and differences between indi- dynamic capabilities? Is more dynamic managerial
vidual capabilities and analyze firms’ dynamic capability always “better” or does it depend on the
capabilities profiles as a whole. composition of a variety of skills? Moreover, what
Another dimension of dynamic capabilities that about the other causal direction—that is, how do or-
has received calls for additional research concerns ganizational dynamic capabilities affect the develop-
the hierarchy of capabilities (14 articles in our sam- ment of dynamic managerial capabilities? And how
ple). As noted earlier, the idea that capabilities can does the team level of dynamic capabilities intervene
be viewed hierarchically is not new (Collis, 1994; in the individual-to-organization relationship?
Zollo & Winter, 2002), but seeking additional em- In summary, the more nuanced approach of in-
pirical insight into higher-order dynamic capabil- vestigating specific kinds of dynamic capabilities
ities and their relationship with “regular” dynamic that are distinguished along a variety of dimensions
capabilities is in our view another important op- has in our opinion added much richness to the dy-
portunity for deepening dynamic capabilities re- namic capabilities research agenda. In addition to
search, following the lead of the studies by further exploring individual elements of selected
Heimeriks et al. (2012) and Schilke (2014b). We typologies, we believe that the dynamic capabilities
consider the notion of dynamic capabilities of perspective can benefit from future research that
a higher order as particularly appealing because it integrates and juxtaposes these typologies with one
enables dynamic capabilities scholars to respond another to provide added coherence and cross-
to the question of where (first-order) dynamic ca- fertilization. For example, what are the similarities
pabilities come from with an answer that makes and differences in routinization at the individual and
use of its key concept—namely, capabilities. In organizational levels of analysis? Do coordination,
addition, in light of studies discussed earlier learning, and reconfiguration processes matter to all
showing that capabilities may be substitutes rather functional dynamic capability domains? How might
than complements, we believe that it would be higher-order dynamic capabilities operate at the
helpful for future research to address the conditions team versus firm level? Exploring questions like
under which lower- and higher-order dynamic these will require data on more than one dimension
418 Academy of Management Annals January

of dynamic capability for them to be systematically likely to have a greater effect on performance in this
compared. In addition to such integrative efforts, the circumstance.
list of dimensionalization approaches has not yet We believe that one reason why environmental
been fully exhausted. Other ways to characterize dynamism shows up in different places may have to
dynamic capabilities may, for instance, be based on do with the varying degree to which scholars assume
differentiating between temporal phases (Mitrega, managers to be rational. Analogous to the “discrim-
Forkmann, Ramos, & Henneberg, 2012) or the psy- inating alignment hypothesis” in transaction cost
chological processes involved (Helfat & Peteraf, 2015; economics (Williamson, 1991), scholars who assume
Hodgkinson & Healey, 2011). As such, we view re- relatively high levels of rationality will expect
search into the different dimensions to be particularly managers to anticipate that returns to dynamic ca-
promising to further advance insight into the nature of pability investments are dependent on the degree of
dynamic capabilities. environmental dynamism and to only invest in
Antecedents. Scholars continue to remain very those capabilities up to a certain point that is aligned
interested in the origins of dynamic capabilities, with the dynamism of the firm’s environment—
with a total of 80 articles addressing future research suggesting an antecedent role of environmental dy-
on the antecedents of dynamic capabilities. As dis- namism. In contrast, scholars that put less faith in
cussed previously, much is known already about the managers’ rationality regarding dynamic capability
role of prior paths—experience—and positions— development decisions would instead allow for sub-
resources—as well as other antecedents such as or- optimal dynamic capability endowments (Bromiley,
ganizational structure. However, there are relatively 2004); researchers then would predict variations in
few studies that examine interactions among differ- the performance effects of these capabilities as
ent antecedents, and there are important antecedents a function of environmental dynamism—suggesting
that are largely unexplored. For example, the re- a moderating role of environmental dynamism. And if
lationship between leadership and dynamic capa- managers are boundedly rational, we are likely to
bilities is a micro-level topic that in our view has observe environmental dynamism as both an ante-
untapped potential (also see Kanter, Bird, Bernstein, cedent and a moderator to some degree. All of these
& Raffaelli, forthcoming). Moving beyond firm approaches are internally consistent and viable as
boundaries, we need to know more about how dif- long as one’s position regarding managerial rational-
ferent types of networks and network positions may ity is laid out clearly—a point that goes back to our
shape dynamic capabilities, a topic that has received earlier discussion about the benefits of stating the
relatively little attention. Overall, it is clear there is theoretical assumptions used in a study.
not a single source for dynamic capabilities, so we Another concept that occupies several roles in
see potential for future research to continue to elu- Figure 2 is organizational learning. As noted earlier,
cidate a variety of important antecedents. sometimes learning is considered an antecedent,
One notable aspect of dynamic capabilities re- sometimes a dimension, and sometimes a conse-
search to date is that several of the antecedents in the quence of dynamic capabilities. Of course, learning
framework depicted in Figure 2 also show up else- (much like dynamic capabilities) is a highly multi-
where in the figure. The fact that some antecedents faceted phenomenon (Argote, 1999). First, the ante-
may also be dimensions, mechanisms, moderators, cedent type of learning can often be understood as
and/or consequences of dynamic capabilities has a higher-order meta-routine that helps organizations
gone largely unremarked in the literature. A case in to develop lower-order organizational change rou-
point is environmental dynamism, which can be tines (in line with our previously mentioned dis-
both an antecedent to a dynamic capability (Piening, cussion of dynamic capabilities at different
2013) and a moderator of the dynamic capability- hierarchical levels; also see Schilke (2014b) and
performance effect (Schilke, 2014a). Interestingly, Zollo and Winter (2002)). Second, subprocesses of
the theoretical argument underlying both positions learning in the dimensions that underlie dynamic
is virtually identical; it is based on the idea that capabilities tend to refer to learning as it pertains to
building and maintaining organizational change altering the organizational resource base (Teece
routines tends to be particularly advantageous when et al., 1997). Finally, consequences of dynamic ca-
there is some change in the environment. That is, pabilities may include learning outcomes, such as
firms may be more likely to develop dynamic capa- new knowledge-based resources or improved oper-
bilities in at least a moderately changing external ational routines. Additional research would be
environment, and dynamic capabilities are also helpful to better understand the relationships among
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 419

the elements of organizational learning in different We believe that, although much evidence for a link
parts of the dynamic capabilities framework. between dynamic capabilities and performance
Similarly, resources have multiple roles in the or- outcomes has accumulated already, the study of
ganizing framework. As antecedents, resources pro- such consequences will, and should, remain at the
vide the inputs necessary to build and maintain core of future inquiry. As mentioned earlier, a key
dynamic capabilities, and they are also used in con- aspect that sets the dynamic capabilities perspective
junction with dynamic capabilities (Winter, 2003). As apart from other literatures on change is its strong
causal mechanisms, resources that have been altered orientation toward explaining competitive advan-
through dynamic capabilities in turn provide the ba- tage. Therefore, we expect many future studies to
sis for other consequences, such as changes to firm- have some type of performance measure as their
level performance. In yet other research, the modified dependent variable. Relevant outcomes, however,
(and ideally improved) resource base of the organi- are not always firm-level performance. As noted
zation is treated as the outcome of exercising dynamic earlier, as per Ray, Barney, and Muhanna (2004),
capabilities. In light of these different roles that re- scholars are well advised to choose an outcome
sources play, we believe that further longitudinal in- variable that is sufficiently close to their study’s focal
vestigations focusing on the reciprocal nature of the type of capability rather than always use a broad and
dynamic capabilities–resources relationship and in- aggregated firm performance measure. For example,
troducing explicit feedback loops would help to fur- even though a dynamic capability may be highly
ther elucidate this logic. beneficial, a firm may still lack in overall perfor-
Finally, most research on antecedents has remained mance for other reasons, making it more difficult to
agnostic with regard to whether the analytical focus detect an effect of dynamic capabilities. Therefore,
is on identifying factors that facilitate (a) the more proximal measures of dynamic capability ef-
creation/development, (b) the maintenance/sustainment, fectiveness are often appropriate. Furthermore, more
or (c) the actual exercise/usage of dynamic capa- research on the effects of dynamic capabilities on
bilities. We believe that future research would relevant “nonperformance” outcomes such as orga-
benefit by separating these analytically so as to as- nizational structure would be fruitful, especially
certain whether some antecedents matter more in when such variables are modeled as intermediary
some of these categories than others. In addition, we outcomes in a multi-step chain, as discussed next.
see an opportunity to investigate feedback loops Mechanisms. A total of 28 articles in our sample
from dynamic capabilities to organizational and point to the need for greater knowledge of causal
individual-level antecedents through an impact on mechanisms in dynamic capabilities research. We
consequences such as learning. concur this is a noticeable gap in the literature. As
Consequences. Given the variety of different dy- Figure 2 shows, with the exception of changes in the
namic capabilities, the articles in our sample con- resource base mediating the dynamic capability–
tinue to recommend additional investigations into performance link, the mechanism category has
common outcome variables, such as firm-level remained underspecified and relatively few articles
performance (57 articles) or innovation outcomes have addressed causal mechanisms at all. Mechanisms
(12 articles). In addition, we also observed various are fundamental to theory building and enrichment
scholars advocating greater nuance and investigating (Stinchcombe, 1991). Thus, we view the exploration of
more fine-grained aspects of performance conse- relevant mediators as an important opportunity for the
quences, such as project-specific outcomes (Im, next decade of dynamic capabilities research.
Montoya, & Workman, 2013), cost efficiency mea- First, we see an interesting opportunity for future
sures (Vanpoucke, Vereecke, & Wetzels, 2014), and work to add greater richness to our understanding of
customer satisfaction (Fawcett et al., 2011). Other the mechanism of resource base change, given this
recommendations aimed at further broadening the mechanism’s central role in many foundational
range of consequences to include those not directly works (Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000; Helfat & Peteraf,
related to performance, such as the level of trust 2003; Zahra et al., 2006; Zott, 2003) and the diverse
in organizations (Laeequddin, Sardana, Sahay, ways in which resource changes can potentially
Waheed, & Sahay, 2009), the organization’s scope come about.9 Specifically, is there evidence for
of diversification (Døving & Gooderham, 2008), se- a more pronounced mediating role of intentional
lected entry modes in international expansion
(Brouthers et al., 2008), and CEO pay (Carpenter 9
We are grateful to the associate editor for pointing us to
et al., 2001). this important suggestion for future research.
420 Academy of Management Annals January

versus coincidental change, for change in tangible changes, these mechanisms capture how dynamic
versus intangible resources, or for increased re- capabilities may lead to changes in cognitive, emo-
source diversity versus depth? tional, and motivational traits of individual organi-
Moreover, we believe that several mediating vari- zational members, their shared mental models and
ables other than resource changes could reasonably cognitive frames, and even the organization’s iden-
be added. For instance, as we pointed out previously, tity, which in turn can have important performance
the general topic of shaping the environment merits consequences.
greater attention from a dynamic capabilities per- Finally, it is noteworthy that we did not come
spective. Teece (2007) provides several concrete across any investigations of antecedents to dynamic
examples, including transforming regulations, tech- capabilities that incorporated mediators between
nological standards, partners, and other institutions antecedents and dynamic capabilities. It would be
within the business ecosystem. That is, firms can use beneficial to advance extant research on antecedents
dynamic capabilities to alter many features of their by gaining a better understanding of how exactly
external environments, which in turn may affect they exert their effects on dynamic capabilities. For
performance outcomes. Current empirical research this reason, we believe that developing a layer of
on these topics has yet to strongly pursue them from relevant mediators is important.
a dynamic capabilities perspective, creating a sig- Moderators. The study of moderators has been
nificant opportunity to make an important contri- one of the main growth areas in recent dynamic ca-
bution. We thus advocate further explorations of the pabilities research, and scholars have advocated
mediating role of bringing about changes in the ex- continuing on this trajectory. Other organizational
ternal environment in the dynamic capability– capabilities and certain organizational structures
consequences link. are among the organizational-level moderators
Furthermore, previous studies have sometimes most frequently suggested for further study (21 and
emphasized the upsides of dynamic capabilities 13 articles, respectively). Among environmental mod-
without accounting for their costs (cf. Clifford Defee & erators, the industry sector (34 articles), environmental
Fugate, 2010). The importance of costs in developing dynamism (23 articles), and the geographic area
and deploying dynamic capabilities was pointed out (22 articles) are among the top picks for further
by Winter (2003) and has been noted in more recent investigation.
studies (Schilke, 2014a; Stadler et al., 2013), but this is To add further richness to this line of inquiry, we
still an understudied area. For example, researchers suggest considering moderated mediation. Advances
could measure the costs associated with dynamic in software packages (e.g., Preacher & Hayes, 2004)
capability deployment as a separate variable, or ob- have made it possible to more easily estimate a variety
tain good proxy measures for these costs, which of more complex models that can shed light on where
would allow them to consider deployment costs as an exactly the moderator comes into play—for example,
additional intermediate mechanism in explaining the at either the dynamic capabilities–mediator or the
link between dynamic capabilities and their conse- mediator–consequence link. Thus, future studies
quences. Costs are relevant to other parts of the orga- could explore whether environmental dynamism
nizing framework as well. For example, because the primarily conditions the dynamic capability–
costs of developing dynamic capabilities are largely resource change link or the resource change–firm
sunk (i.e., difficult to recoup through direct sale), performance link, or both.
firms should consider the cost of developing a dy- Future research could also incorporate the impact
namic capability when deciding whether to invest in of dynamic capabilities on variables currently treat-
doing so (Winter, 2003). This reasoning suggests that ed as moderators, such as organizational size, cul-
the (firm- and situation-specific) development cost of ture, structure, strategy, and other capabilities.
dynamic capabilities is also a likely antecedent that These are clearly features of organizations that dy-
would benefit from future research. namic capabilities may act upon, suggesting that
In addition, we need research that pays more at- feedback loops from dynamic capabilities to mod-
tention to the kinds of mechanisms that Verona and erators of their effects merit additional investigation.
Zollo (2011) and Zollo, Bettinazzi, Neumann, and
Snoeren (2016) call “non-behavioral objects of ac-
Additional Considerations
tion” and that are typically not among the types of
firm resources traditionally considered by strategy Dynamics. Researchers are increasingly consid-
scholars. Rather than addressing material, behavioral ering implementation of dynamic capabilities and
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 421

associated issues of timing (Anand et al., 2009; several other methodological considerations that
Harreld, O’Reilly, & Tushman, 2007). It is encour- we believe are particularly germane to dynamic
aging to see that the dynamic capabilities concept is capabilities research and that we hope will en-
diffusing to more practitioner-oriented outlets courage new methodological approaches in the
(e.g., the California Management Review). We view study of dynamic capabilities.
this as an important issue, because managers will First, we suggest more mixed-methods research,
more fully appreciate the value of the dynamic ca- which can allow for simultaneous theory extension
pabilities perspective if we are able to provide them and testing. So far, most studies on dynamic capa-
with additional practical guidance on how to foster bilities have relied on either qualitative or quantita-
the growth of those capabilities in their firms (Felin & tive approaches, but combing the two in a single
Powell, 2016; Nickerson et al., 2012). In particular, investigation opens up significant potential for pro-
further studies focusing on the steps involved in viding deep insight into the functioning and the
developing and successfully implementing dy- broader role of dynamic capabilities. Second, we
namic capabilities would be very desirable (Allred, encourage additional use of archival data and em-
Fawcett, Wallin, & Magnan, 2011; Beer, 2013; Malik & pirical proxy variables (see Stadler et al., 2013). Our
Kotabe, 2009; Narayanan, Colwell, & Douglas, 2009). analysis indicated that this well-established ap-
In line with our previous suggestions regarding the- proach to empirical research has been less used in
oretical integration, dynamic capabilities scholars dynamic capabilities research than survey and
may find relevant guidance in this regard from the qualitative methods. There are a variety of ways to
change management literature (also see Fawcett measure dynamic capabilities through proxy vari-
et al., 2012; Sune & Gibb, 2015). This literature also ables with archival data. For example, one approach
speaks more broadly to issues of planning strategic is to use a measure of prior experience that goes into
change, the role of change leaders, and dealing with developing a dynamic capability (see Chen et al.,
employee resistance. 2012). Another approach is to use an intermediate
More generally, we encourage researchers to ap- outcome of a dynamic capability as a measure of the
proach the study of dynamic capabilities from extent of “capability” that is then used to produce
a process perspective in their future investigations, a subsequent outcome. Yet another approach is to
consistent with Langley et al.’s (2013: 1) powerful measure inputs to a dynamic capability. All of these
primer on process studies in management, in which approaches have been used in the broader capabil-
they urge organizational scholars to “take time seri- ities literature and are applicable to dynamic capa-
ously, illuminate the role of tensions and contra- bilities. In addition, a broader set of econometric
dictions in driving patterns of change, and show how techniques, including those that more precisely an-
interactions across levels contribute to change.” The alyze cause-and-effect relationships, can often be
striking tension between dynamic change and (rela- applied to archival data.
tively) stable routines, although at the heart of Third, meta-analyses may prove useful. Given
dynamic capabilities, remains somewhat counter- the significant body of empirical research on dy-
intuitive and underilluminated. Further research is namic capabilities that has accumulated, we can
needed to elaborate on how dynamic capabilities can now start to synthesize existing findings using
affect change while at the same time following rep- meta-analytic techniques. The recent meta-analysis
etitious behavioral patterns that, despite their con- by Fainshmidt et al. (2016) is a good example: these
tinuity, may ultimately also be subject to change as authors not only provided synthetic evidence for
these routines are being performed, contextualized, the positive performance effect of dynamic capa-
and reinterpreted. bilities but also added previously largely un-
Research methods. In coding limitations and sug- explored moderators, such as the economic
gestions related to empirical methods, we followed the context. Fourth, quasi-replications that seek to re-
taxonomy employed by Brutus et al. (2013), which produce prior findings about dynamic capabilities
maps the four general threats to validity (i.e., internal, in different settings (e.g., in different industries,
external, construct, and statistical conclusion). time periods, and countries) can help scholars to
Most of the identified issues are quite general and gain a greater understanding of the extent to which
apply to much strategy research beyond dynamic prior empirical results are generalizable (Bettis,
capabilities, as indicated by the illustrative quotes Helfat, & Shaver, 2016). The findings of such
about methods in Table 3. However, beyond the studies may, in turn, suggest additional theoretical
issues identified in the content analysis, there are considerations.
422 Academy of Management Annals January

Fifth, as more dynamic capabilities scholars a basis for future research. Based on an integrative
move into microfoundations, we see experimental analysis of a large sample of relevant investiga-
methods as an attractive methodological choice tions, this article takes important steps toward
(Bitektine, Lucas, & Schilke, forthcoming; Foss further unifying the field of dynamic capabilities.
et al., 2012). The recent investigations by Levine Our review shows that the recent stream of re-
et al. (forthcoming) and Wollersheim and Heimeriks search has moved the dynamic capabilities per-
(2016) are two of few dynamics capabilities studies spective significantly forward while addressing
that use laboratory experiments. The former neatly earlier criticisms regarding the underspecification of
demonstrates how laboratory experiments can ad- the dynamic capabilities construct. At this point, the
vance the theory of dynamic capabilities: Levine most frequently used general definitions of dynamic
et al. (forthcoming) construct in the laboratory capabilities are complementary to one another and
a realistic market, where participants trade assets have achieved substantial clarity, for which reason
for real money. Through experimental design, the we believe that further convergence is not a high
researchers eliminate possible advantages from priority. Scholars have also made substantial prog-
market structure or strategic resources, disen- ress in addressing the earlier criticism that empirical
tangling the effect of dynamic capabilities from work was lacking, which is clearly no longer the case
other possible sources of competitive advantages. as most of the research on dynamic capabilities is
Thus, when they find widespread performance now empirical. In addition, research has made sub-
heterogeneity, they can causally tie it to preexisting stantial progress identifying and investigating ante-
differences in managerial dynamic capabilities, cedents to dynamic capabilities and demonstrating
operationalized through strategic intelligence. their consequences, which earlier critiques had sin-
Wollersheim and Heimeriks (2016) identify several gled out as requiring greater attention. A good deal
distinct advantages of dynamic capabilities in terms of work has also addressed earlier criticism of ill-
of resource use efficiency, coordination efficiency, specified boundary conditions by investigating con-
appropriate action sequencing, and greater de- tingencies in the dynamic capabilities–performance
liberation. As they argue, laboratory experiments relationship. Of note, many of these studies have in-
can benefit the study of dynamic capabilities by vestigated environmental dynamism as a contingency
providing a means to assess causality, hold constant variable, addressing prior criticisms that environ-
potential confounding factors, and isolate un- mental dynamism should not be viewed as a pre-
derlying processes. Several types of experimental condition for dynamic capabilities.
paradigms, including routine-prone card games or Despite this progress, we have identified impor-
interdependent production tasks (Foss et al. 2012), tant gaps in the literature that call for additional re-
can be fruitfully employed to bring dynamic capa- search. These include the need for significantly more
bilities into the laboratory by studying reactions attention to integration of underused theories, com-
to environmental shocks. Field experiments also plemented by empirical research; mechanisms
could add to the empirical base of dynamic capa- involving dynamic capabilities; feedback loops be-
bilities; this approach has been used to study the tween dynamic capabilities and their antecedents,
role of managers in strategic change (Helfat & consequences, mediators, and moderators; interactions
Martin, 2015) and could be applied to dynamic ca- among antecedents to dynamic capabilities; comple-
pabilities more generally. mentarity versus substitution effects among different
dynamic capabilities and between dynamic capabilities
and operational capabilities; the costs of developing
and employing dynamic capabilities; the role of
Interest in dynamic capabilities has grown sub- dynamic capabilities in shaping the external envi-
stantially in recent years. In this article, we have ronment; and process-based approaches to the evo-
taken stock of the flourishing stream of research on lution of dynamic capabilities. We have also pointed
dynamic capabilities, with a particular focus on to the unresolved tension between more versus less-
where the field can move next as scholars continue to routinized dynamic capabilities and have therefore
broaden and deepen extant knowledge. Going be- called for additional research on which types of
yond earlier review articles, the article develops dynamic capabilities are more or less heavily routin-
a comprehensive meta-framework of dynamic ca- ized and the consequences for organizations. And
pabilities that reflects the richness of recent in- we have further suggested that scholars reorient the
vestigations, synthesizing prior research and providing study of the consequences of dynamic capabilities to
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 423

focus more heavily on proximal outcomes. Beyond Arend, R. J. 2014. Entrepreneurship and dynamic capa-
this, to continue to make empirical progress, we ad- bilities: How firm age and size affect the ‘capability
vocate greater use of archival data and laboratory enhancement-SME performance’ relationship. Small
studies. Knowledge gained from additional research Business Economics, 42(1): 33–57.
in these areas holds the potential to considerably Arend, R. J. 2015. Mobius’ edge: Infinite regress in the
augment the organizing framework for dynamic ca- resource-based and dynamic capabilities views.
pabilities that we provided. We hope not only to aid Strategic Organization, 13(1): 75–85.
individual scholars in identifying interesting research Arend, R. J., & Bromiley, P. 2009. Assessing the dynamic
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2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 433


First Layer Second Layer Third Layer

Teece et al. 1997

Eisenhardt and Martin 2000
Helfat et al. 2007
Definition Zollo and Winter 2002
Teece 2007
Winter 2003
Other (including unspecified)

Coordinating/ learning/ reconfiguring

Underlying process Sensing/ seizing/ transforming
Other (including unspecified)

Routinization Routinized versus ad hoc

Information technology
International expansion/adaptation
What Functional domain
Merger & acquisition
New product development (R&D)
Other (including unspecified)

Zero-, first-, second-, and higher-order

Capabilities hierarchy

Unit of analysis
Beyond firm boundaries
Other (including unspecified)

Other dimensionaliza-
tion approach Other (including unspecified)
434 Academy of Management Annals January

Organizational structure
Organizational culture (including
intraorganizational communication,
external orientation)
Resources (including capabilities)
Information technology
Antecedent Human capital
Managerial cognition
External environment (including
dynamism, uncertainty, stage of
Interorganizational structure
Other (including unspecified)

Firm-level performance
Domain-/process-specific performance
How External fitness
Innovation outcomes
Resource-base change
Other (including unspecified)

Dynamics Timing of effects
Other (including unspecified)

Resource base
Other (including unspecified)

Bounded rationality
Managerial agency
Why Theoretical assumption Heterogeneity of dynamic capabilities
Other (including unspecified)

Resource-based view of the firm

Learning theory
Theory integration Evolutionary economics
Transaction cost economics
Other (including unspecified)
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 435

Organizational factors Strategy
Interorganizational structure
Other organizational capabilities
Other (including unspecified)

Industry sector
Who/where/ Geographical area
Environmental factors Environmental dynamism
Competitive intensity
Other (including unspecified)

Unstable theoretical effect

Other time-dependent variables

Archival data
Large-scale survey
Empirical Qualitative
Meta analysis
Mixed methods

Formal modeling
Conceptual Simulation
Qualitative theory
436 Academy of Management Annals January


First Layer Second Layer Third Layer

Clarity of definition
Definition Convergence of definitions
Other (including unspecified)

Coordinating/ learning/ reconfiguring

Underlying process Sensing/ seizing/ transforming
Other (including unspecified)

Routinized versus ad hoc


Information technology
International expansion
Merger & acquisition & Divestiture
New product development (R&D)
What Functional domain
Human resources
Other (including unspecified)

Capabilities hierarchy Zero-, first-, second-, and higher-order


Unit of analysis Business unit
Beyond firm boundaries
Other (including unspecified)

Other dimensionaliza- Other (including unspecified)

tion approach
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 437


Organizational structure
Organizational culture (including
intraorganizational communication,
external orientation)
Resources (including capabilities)
Information technology
Antecedent Human capital
Managerial cognition
External environment (including
dynamism, uncertainty, stage of
Partnering with others
Other (including unspecified)

Firm-level performance
Domain-/process-specific performance
How External fitness
Consequence Flexibility
Innovation outcomes
Resource-base change
Organizational change
Other (including unspecified)

Dynamics Timing of effects
Other (including unspecified)

Resource base
Other (including unspecified)

Bounded rationality
Managerial agency
Why Theoretical assumption Heterogeneity of dynamic capabilities
Other (including unspecified)

Resource-based view of the firm
Learning theory
Theory integration Evolutionary economics
Social cognition
Transaction cost economics
Other (including unspecified)
438 Academy of Management Annals January


Organizational factors Strategy
Interorganizational structure
Other organizational capabilities
Other (including unspecified)

Industry sector
Geographical area
Environmental factors Environmental dynamism
Competitive intensity
Other (including unspecified)

Unstable theoretical effect

Other time-dependent variables

Issues with causality

Internal validity Issues with omitted variables
Other threats to internal validity

Issues with generalizability

External validity Issues with (survey) response
Other threats to external validity

Issues with operationalization of

Construct validity
Issues with data source
Common method bias
Other threats to construct validity

Issues with analysis method

Statistical conclusion Issues with sample size
validity Other threats to statistical conclusion
2018 Schilke, Hu, and Helfat 439


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