The resource-based tangle: Towards a sustainable explanation of competitive advantage

Nicolai J. Foss, Thorbjørn Knudsen

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    The arguably dominant contemporary approach to the analysis of sustained competitive advantage is the resource-based view. Taking Barney (1991) and Peteraf (1993) as representative summary statements of the view, we argue that much resource-based research rests on partial, implicit and problematic assumptions, and that this has led to conclusions that are much less general than the proponents of the view believe. As an example, the widely cited ”value-rareness-inimitability” or “heterogeneity-immobility-ex post and ex ante limits to competition” lists do not stand up to scrutiny. In general, the view suffers from a confusion of what are necessary conditions for the expression of sustained competitive advantage and what are additional conditions, which only serve to give the expression of sustained competitive advantage a specific form. We argue that there are only two necessary conditions for the expression of sustained competitive advantage, namely uncertainty and immobility, and that all other conditions are additional.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
    PublisherInstitut for Industriøkonomi og Virksomhedsstrategi, Handelshøjskolen i København
    Number of pages41
    ISBN (Print)8778690501
    Publication statusPublished - 2000
    SeriesWorking Paper / Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy. Copenhagen Business School

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