Cognition and Capabilities

9 May 2013 at 12:35 pm 2 comments

| Dick Langlois |

The title of this paper caught my attention.

“Cognition & Capabilities: A Multi-Level Perspective”
J. P. Eggers and Sarah Kaplan
Academy of Management Annals 7(1): 293-338

Research on managerial cognition and on organizational capabilities has essentially developed in two parallel tracks. We know much from the resource-based view about the relationship between capabilities and organizational performance. Separately, managerial cognition scholars have shown how interpretations of the environment shape organizational responses. Only recently have scholars begun to link the two sets of insights. These new links suggest that routines and capabilities are based in particular understandings about how things should be done, that the value of these capabilities is subject to interpretation, and that even the presence of capabilities may be useless without managerial interpretations of their match to the environment. This review organizes these emerging insights in a multi-level cognitive model of capability development and deployment. The model focuses on the recursive processes of constructing routines (capability building blocks), assembling routines into capabilities, and matching capabilities to perceived opportunities. To date, scholars have focused most attention on the organizational-level process of matching. Emerging research on the microfoundations of routines contributes to the micro-level of analysis. The lack of research on capability assembly leaves the field without a bridge connecting the macro and micro levels. The model offers suggestions for research directions to address these challenges.

The reason it caught my eye is that some 16 years ago I published a paper with exactly the same title (albeit with a different subtitle). Of course, I didn’t approach the issue in exactly the way these authors do, which is obviously close to Nicolai’s work on microfoundations. But I did arguably try to “link the two sets of insights,” and I did not do so “only recently.”

Entry filed under: - Langlois -, Management Theory, Strategic Management, Theory of the Firm. Tags: .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sarah Kaplan  |  9 May 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Dick, Our apologies! Not sure why your chapter didn’t come up in our search. The IBM story continues to be a fascinating touchstone on these issues. Thank you for pointing us to this piece. The idea that ‘personal capital’ can shape the capabilities an organization develops over time is a powerful one. Here’s where the disclaimer that all errors and omissions remain our own really holds! Yours, Sarah

  • 2. Dick Langlois  |  9 May 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks, Sarah. I fear my post was a bit crankier than I intended. (I’ve reached the age at which I have sudden urges to tell those damned kids to get off my lawn.) I also failed to say that I thought your paper was interesting and indeed important.

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