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Key Theories of Competitive Advantage for Practising Managers


Before you start to write, spend time understanding the key points and the requirements of the assessment (each question). It is a good idea to deconstruct the question by reviewing the keywords; sentence/s. This will help you understand the key terms or theories and identify the topics that you have to establish a good understanding before you set to answer the question.

Question 1

Now let’s move to Q1 [40 marks] around 2000words

The question is, “Write a critical note on the key theories of competitive advantage and their relevance to practising managers. Your analysis should include arguments put forward by the proponents of the positioning school, the resource-based view, the dynamic capabilities concept and any other key school of thoughts/ theories”. I have highlighted the key terms that you need to focus on.

Step 1

Establish a good understanding of what is ‘competitive advantage’ (CA). Read literature on CA. Refer to Week 3 Lecture Notes for some key definitions of CA. It is a good idea also to read the relevant articles to expand our understanding of the concept of CA There are several books on competitive advantage in your Library….grab a few of them including your key text!

• Chapter 4 – Exploring Strategy book1
• Barney and Hesterly, 2015. Strategic management and competitive advantage concepts and cases (book)
• Any book on Strategy will have chapters dedicated to CA/ Theories of CA

Step 2

Identify the key theories of CA. As you can see in the question, I have already identified three fundamental theories and expect you to review another theory. Wang’s (2014) article, ‘Theories of Competitive Advantage is a good starting point’ available online is a good starting point.

For each of the theory identifies the following

1. Key scholars who have written on the theory (for example, it will be unacceptable not to read/refer to Jay Barney when discussing 'Resource-based view.'

2. Identify the seminal articles for each of the theory (you can identify this from the list of articles 1 Key papers/ book chapters highlighted in green 2 that I have given below/ from the authors/articles that are often cited in your key text on the topic.

3. Have a table that list they key scholars / articles of each of the theories, what is proposed (theory), how do they differ (if any) any similarities (if any). Here is a good idea to review any literature review (articles) on a given theory. Usually, such studies will also look at critics of the

4. Identify articles that provide empirical evidence to various levels support the theory.

5. Once you have done the above for the three theories, plus, one of your choice, write a critical note of each of the theories.

Step 3

Following Step 2, review how the above-presented theories are relevant to management. Here, you may have got an idea of the advantages and drawbacks of each of the theory from your review in Step 2. Additionally, ask yourself, as a manager, how these theories might help you to develop strategies to gain competitive advantage. A good starting point could be Connor’s (2004) review of the RBV and its relevance to practising managers. 

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