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Understanding Resource-Based Competitiveness: Competencies, Business Processes and Alternative Performance Assessment

Special issue call for papers from Competitiveness Review

This Special Issue will open for submissions in September 2019.

Guest editors:

Esteban Lafuente, Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC Barcelona Tech), Spain
László Szerb, University of Pécs, Hungary


In an increasingly complex economic environment, organizations struggle between the design of value-adding strategic actions and the selection of accurate measures to evaluate the degree of achievement of their goals. In this sense, the resource-based view (RBV) of the firm is one of the most important theoretical frameworks to understand how firms create value-adding competencies and, consequently, achieve superior performance (Wernerfelt, 1984; Barney, 2001; Prahalad and Hamel, 1990).

Over the years, the stock of empirical work testing one of the primary theoretical predictions of the resource-based view (RBV), which states that firms create and/or develop competitive advantages by deploying valuable resources and capabilities that are inelastic in supply, has begun to accumulate (e.g., Newbert, 2007; Fernhaber and Patel, 2012). Although competitiveness is an attractive construct that has been largely analyzed from multiple angles, two interwoven aspects of great relevance for scholars and policy makers have emerged in this discussion.

First, organizations are a bundle of resources and capabilities and these ingredients do not work in isolation. From a business perspective, competitiveness is a multidimensional construct and scholars have fueled the debate on how to model the competitiveness function for evaluation purposes. Competitive performance is much more than the mere growth of quantitative metrics, and businesses need to accommodate different aspects that affect the functioning of their operations (at all levels) if the full realization of the potential of their resources and capabilities is the desired goal (Ketchen et al., 2007). This argument is not necessarily news and it has been taken into account directly and indirectly in many studies on business competitiveness (see, e.g., Hult et al., 2007; Sirmon et al., 2011; Fernhaber and Patel, 2012; Cetindamar and Kilitcioglu, 2013).

In our view, instead of focusing on canonical quantitative approaches to evaluate the individual contribution of different resources or capabilities to business competitiveness, scholars should acknowledge the multi-dimensional nature of competitiveness. This way, the analysis of how businesses can effectively orchestrate their resources and capabilities and of how to evaluate the outcomes of their competitive-led efforts constitutes a challenge to researchers interested in evaluating the business competitiveness from a more holistic, systemic approach.

In connection with the arguments described above, the second aspect deals with the identification of novel methodologies to analyze the competitive trajectory of businesses as well as to scrutinize the role of the configuration of competitiveness building-blocks. Multiple factors interact in the fabrication of effective competitiveness-enhancing actions. On the one hand, competitive strengths are often invoked as the drivers of competitiveness (e.g., Hult et al., 2007; Fernhaber and Patel, 2012). On the other hand, competitive weaknesses are the dark side of competencies, and different analytical approaches have been proposed within the RBV literature, including resource weaknesses, competitive disadvantage and strategic liabilities (e.g., Sirmon et al. 2010). The analysis of the interplay between competitive strengths and weaknesses as well as their impact on competitiveness raises relevant questions with economic implications. By acknowledging the interconnectedness of resources and capabilities, academic work should adopt alternative approaches to competitiveness in which the configuration of the business’ competencies plays a decisive role in order to develop studies that reflect the systemic nature of competitiveness components (Miller, 1986).

Because of the relevance of accurately measuring and identifying the driving forces of business competitiveness in economic contexts demanding more demonstrable returns, effective managerial and policy recommendations should therefore be rooted in research that emphasizes evaluation and confronts many often ‘taken for granted’ assumptions.

In this sense, much still needs to be studied concerning a number of issues with relevant implications, including, for example, the development of metrics that account for the multidimensional and systemic nature of competitiveness, the identification of competitiveness improvements resulting from different strategic actions linked to investment in different resources or capabilities, and the study of how the characteristics of the local economic setting affect business competitiveness and the configuration of competitive factors (i.e., strengths and weaknesses).

From our view, the challenge for researchers is to further scrutinize business competitiveness as well as the processes linked to the exploitation of resources and capabilities by proposing and testing relevant research questions using quantitative, qualitative and mixed models. Also, researchers should adopt a critical perspective that permits to shed valuable insights on the outcomes of competitiveness-enhancing strategic actions in different economic settings.

Following this rationale, the aim of this special section is threefold:

1. From an organizational perspective, the special issue pursues a better understanding of the systemic, multidimensional nature of competitiveness in an effort to reveal if the dynamics associated with the pursuit of different objectives (e.g., associated with improvements in different resources or capabilities) increase the competitive performance of firms. Additionally, the Special Issue intents to put more emphasis on the competitive scrutiny of small businesses, a research line that has been sidelined in competitiveness research. Small businesses constitute the overwhelming majority of organizations in most economies. While large businesses are more effective and more competitive than smaller ventures, we have a limited knowledge about the particular competencies, strengths and weaknesses of SMEs. An important goal of this Special Issue is to improve our understanding about the competitiveness of small businesses. Theoretical as well as empirical papers are welcome.

2. From an industry perspective, the special issue intends to uncover the potential role of different resources and capabilities in shaping industry competitiveness (e.g., networks, investment in ITs, as well as collaborative arrangements between businesses operating in different industries). Here, the objective is to shed light on how industry characteristics are conducive to different sources of competitive advantage.

3. From a territorial perspective, this special issue aims to provide a greater understanding of the role of the characteristics of the local economy (e.g., institutions, efficiency of local administrations, infrastructures) in promoting competitiveness. In particular this special issue seeks to unveil whether properties of the local environment support and reinforce the operational functioning and efficiency of businesses, which will become evident in higher competitiveness levels. In this discussion, we argue that a deep analysis of the competitiveness trajectories is needed in order to clarify if the impact of specific competitiveness-enhancing actions is conditioned by territorial heterogeneity.

Research topics

The proposed special issue for Competitiveness Review therefore invites novel and original contributions connected to, but not be limited to, the following topics:
• What can be added to the existing literature when it comes to the analysis of the driving forces and outcomes of business competitiveness?
• What strategic choices underpin the competitive strategies of businesses operating in different industries? And, what are the outcomes of such strategies at the organization and industry level?
• How to measure small businesses’ competitiveness for evaluation purposes? Moreover, how small business heterogeneity can be explained by different competencies?
• Does the competitiveness analysis of businesses offer competing results when considering alternative methodologies? Does the systemic analysis of business competitiveness condition performance assessment results and reveals a dissimilar achievement of different goals set by managers?
• Do the characteristics of the local economy offer opportunities for achieving a higher competitiveness level at business level? Furthermore, do territorial factors contribute to explain the potentially different competitiveness results reported by organizations operating in different industries and in different economic settings?
In methodological terms, we encourage case-based, conceptual, and empirically-based submissions. Moreover, we recommend that authors pay explicit attention to the managerial implications of their findings.

Submission guidelines

Manuscripts submitted to the special issue will be subject to a first rigorous screening by the Guest Editors who will invite authors of the selected papers to submit their work for formal consideration by the journal. The Special Issue is subject to the normal double-blind review process established by Competitiveness Review. For any query please contact the Guest Editors.

• Submission deadline (Full manuscript): December 31st, 2019

Please submit your manuscript through the ScholarOne site. This will open in September 2019:

Guest editors

Authors with questions about the suitability of proposed topics for this special issue are encouraged to contact the guest editors:
• Dr. Esteban Lafuente ([email protected]) is Associate Professor at Polytechnic University of Barcelona (UPC Barcelona Tech). He served as senior investigator in the Catalan Observatory of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM: between 2009 and 2013. Esteban’s research is mostly devoted to the economic analysis of organizations, with special emphasis on models of managerial economics and topics in applied econometrics. Additionally, he is interested in the problems and possibilities of entrepreneurial activities and business creation, and their economic benefits from a territorial perspective. He has published in a variety of journals including, among others, International Journal of Production Economics, Small Business Economics, Regional Studies, British Journal of Management, Journal of Business Research, Entrepreneurship & Regional Development and Journal of Technology Transfer. Dr. Lafuente has co-edited special issues in Regional Studies. For further information please go to

• Dr. László Szerb ([email protected]) is Professor in the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Pécs (Hungary). He obtained his PhD in Economics from West Virginia University (US) in 1995 and became the Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2012. His teaching focuses mainly on small business and entrepreneurship related subjects. Professor Szerb has been a Visiting Professor in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, and the United States. He has published extensively in entrepreneurship topics including the determinants of entrepreneurship, competitiveness and performance. In the last years, he has focused his research on entrepreneurship indicator methodology, being one of the main creators together with Zoltán J. Ács of the Global Entrepreneurship Index. Professor Szerb is also the Director of the International PhD Program in Regional Development. Professor Szerb has published his work in, among others, Small Business Economics, Regional Studies, Journal of Technology Transfer, and Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development. For further information please go to


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