Competence Traps

You get at doing That Thing and keep wanting to do it.  If the best tool you have is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails…

See also core rigidities


Conversely, firms focusing on transformation and exploitation (realized AC) may achieve short-term profits through exploitation but fall into a competence trap. Todorova and Durisin (2007) provide a review of Zahra and George’s (2002) reconceptualization of AC and suggest that Cohen and Levinthal’s (1990) model provides important implications left out in Zahra and George’s model. They identify important antecedents such as social integration, appropriability regimes, feedback loops, and power relationships.

(Volberda et al. 2010:936)

Conversely, firms focusing on transformation and exploitation may achieve short-term benefits but fall into a competence trap (Ahuja and Lampert 2001, Jansen et al. 2005, Andriopoulos and Lewis 2009).

(Volberda et al. 2010:942)

Volberda, H., Foss N., and Lyles, M. 2010. Perspective – absorbing the concept of absorptive capacity: how to realize its potential in the organization field. Organization Science Vol. 21,(4), pp. 931–951.


Andriopoulos, C., M. W. Lewis. 2009. Exploitation-exploration tensions and organizational ambidexterity: Managing paradoxes of innovation. Organ. Sci. 20(4) 696–717.

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