Professors Nicolai Foss and Torben Pedersen have edited a virtual special
issue of the Strategic Management Journal on “microfoundations”
Arguably first applied in the context of strategy by Lippman and Rumelt (2003a), the notion of “microfoundations” has received increasing interest in the strategy field. The purpose of this virtual special issue is to briefly explain the main ideas of the microfoundations research agenda, discuss why and how it is relevant to strategy, and of course to showcase some of the key microfoundational papers in the field, all published in the three SMS journals.
The basic motivation for the microfoundations research agenda in strategy has been to decompose macro-level constructs in terms of the actions and interactions of lower level organizational members, understand how firm-level performance emerge from the interaction of these members, and how relations between macro variables are mediated by micro actions and interactions (see Felin, Foss & Ployhart, 2015). Specifically, microfoundation research has focused on anchoring higher-level concepts like dynamic capabilities, routines and social capital on lower levels. Typical questions raised concern understanding dynamic capabilities in terms of managerial cognition, the motivational antecedents of human capital-based competitive advantage, how individual action and interaction constitute the capabilities that drive performance, how routines emerge from such individual action and interaction, etc.
Though forceful calls for microfoundations in strategy date back more than a decade (Grant, 1996; Lippman & Rumelt, 2003a; Felin & Foss, 2005; Gavetti, 2005; Teece, 2007), microfoundational work did not take off until approximately 2010. Specifically, recent years has witnessed microfoundational strategy work on topics such as routines (e.g., Bapuji et al., 2012; Cohen, 2012; Loch, Sengupta, & Ahmad, 2013; Winter, 2013), firm-level performance (Eisenhardt et al., 2010), knowledge processes (Reinholt, Pedersen & Foss, 2011), absorptive capacity (Lewin et al., 2011; Volberda, Foss & Lyles, 2010), ambidexterity (Rogan & Mors, 2014), firm R&D (Paruchuri & Eisenman, 2012), stakeholder management (Bridoux & Stoelhorst, 2013), problem formulation (Baer et al., 2012), innovation (Grigoriou & Rothaermel, 2014), dynamic capabilities (Argote & Ren, 2012; Helfat & Peteraf, 2015; Hodgkinsson & Healey, 2011; Teece, 2007), social capital (Gooderham, Minbaeva & Pedersen, 2011), networks (Ahuja et al., 2012), the RBV (Foss, 2011), and organizational capabilities (Kemper, Schilke, & Brettel, 2013)-
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