Resource-Based View

The resource-based view (RBV) theory emerged in the field of strategy, however it is firmly rooted in economic concepts.

It draws on Penrose’s (1955) theory of the firm, transaction cost analysis (Williamson, 1985), and the Neo-Austrian work of Nelson and Winter (1982).

One of the core assumptions is that firms are heterogeneous. This, it is argued, is a consequence of the path dependent accumulation of organizational knowhow over time (Nelson & Winter, 1982). Furthermore, it argues that sustained competitive advantage comes from idiosyncratic resources (factors of production) that are:

  • Owned by the enterprise
  • Valuable
  • Rare (path dependence assures this)
  • Inimitable (uncertain imitability – Lippman and Rumelt, 1982)
  • Non-substitutable
  • Non-tradable (due to transaction cost issues)

In this framework, organizations come into possession of valuable and rare resources due to luck, entrepreneurial perception, accumulation of skill over time (organizational learning), or private information. In addition, tacit know-how is often depicted as a rare, valuable, non-tradable and inimitable resource.

This theory can be presented as a “complementary” perspective to tradition IO as exemplified by Porter (1980).
The biggest criticisms of this theory include:
  • It can be a tautology: resources are valuable because they are important to the organization; what makes a resource valuable? There is no independent criteria for this.
  • It can become a collection of “just right” stories
RBV articles include:
  • Lippman & Rumelt (1982)
  • Wernerfelt  (1984)
  • Barney (1986a, 1986b)
  • Conner (1991)
  • Barney (1991)
  • Reed and DeFillippi (1990)
(Adapted from course notes)
(Flashcards and other resources here)

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