The path of most persistence: An evolutionary perspective on path dependence and dynamic capabilities


Organization Studies

mars 2011, vol. 32, n°3, pp.365-382

Départements : Stratégie et Politique d’Entreprise, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Mots clés : competitive advantage, dynamic capability, intentionality path dependence selection

This paper extends the dynamic capability view and research on organizational path dependence by arguing that path dependence can be a property of capabilities when a contingently-triggered capability path is subject to self-reinforcement (i.e. a set of positive and negative mechanisms that increases the attractiveness of a path relative to others). The paper introduces an evolutionary perspective, which specifies the underlying selection mechanisms of the property of path dependence in internal and external firm environments. This theorization sheds new light on three paradoxes that currently blur the theoretical contribution of path dependence to research at the managerial, organizational, and industry levels: (1) the problematic coexistence of path irreversibility and managerial intentionality; (2) the ambivalent strategic value of lock-in with regard to competitive advantage; and (3) the relative homogeneity in observed dynamic capabilities, despite their (possible) path dependence that should lead to a wider variety of outcomes owing to the presence of contingency. We highlight the contributions of this perspective to strategic management research and evolutionary theories