Traditional approaches to studying competitive advantage, while valuable, are not adequate to explain how firms can operate effectively in turbulent and often chaotic environments. A resource or skill-based view focusing on development and application of core competences is offered to supplement the traditional approaches. We present a model of the development and outcomes of dynamic core competences based on organizational meta-learning. A firm's core competence(s) is defined as a set of problem-defining and problem-solving insights that fosters the development of idiosyncratic strategic growth alternatives. Dynamic core competences are based on the integration into systemic meta-learning of universal and tacit knowledge through information transfer, redefinition of heuristics and continuous improvement based on experimentation and the development of firm-specific skills based on dynamic routines. Dynamic core competences can be leveraged to create growth alternatives of global diversification, new applications of existing technologies and/or the development of new lines of business. Finally, dynamic core competences can be used to reduce uncertainty and to induce path dependencies that create causal ambiguity (making imitation from other firms difficult). In so doing, they can form the basis of competitive advantages. © 1996 JAI Press Inc. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
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