The dialectics of competency acquisition: Pollution prevention in electric generation

Alfred Marcus, Donald Geffen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Strategy researchers now recognize that distinctive competencies are critically important for sustained competitive advantage. The processes by which such competencies are acquired, however, has only started to be examined. Connections between macro-industrial system level properties and micro-developments in proprietary technology at the firm level need to be made. This paper argues that system-wide properties, such as long-standing elementary and opposing logics in societal forces like governments and markets, and micro-developments, such as the firm's capacity to search for talent, technology, and ideas and to harmonize what it teams internally, can contribute in significant ways to the creation and acquisition of new competencies. Based on the case of pollution prevention in electric generation, it shows how the system-wide properties channel and direct the paths that the acquisition of new competencies take and how they interact with micro-developments at the firm level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1145-1168
Number of pages24
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1998


  • Competence acquisition
  • Corporate environmental management
  • Innovation and change
  • Strategy process research


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