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Technological innovation: a resource-based view
Technological innovation: a resource-based view

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5.3 Supplemental capabilities

By contrast, supplemental capabilities are easily accessible to all organisations, often being freely and/or commercially available. Supplemental capabilities add value to core capabilities but on their own are not particularly distinctive. For example (and sticking with the medical theme used previously), the provision of an intensive care unit in a hospital is not in itself a core capability. The capability of providing intensive care to patients is well developed, with both the necessary people and technologies freely available to employ or purchase. However, provision of an intensive care facility is supplemental to a more core capability such as expertise in heart surgery.

In the context of the RBV and the capabilities approach more generally, the crucial point to reiterate is that core competences and capabilities are not bought ‘off the shelf’ and it is this that makes them so powerful. Instead, and crucially, a core capability will be the product of learning in the organisation over a long period, as previously noted. For example, Tesco’s (and other large retailers’) core capability in managing big data is a distinct and difficult capability to replicate, having developed through their experience over a sustained period in developing web-based business and operating a long running loyalty (card) scheme. Clearly, a core capability such as this cannot be bought in. However, it is important to note that many of the complementary assets that support the core capability – such as IT hardware and software, expertise in programming and data capture and so on – can be bought in, and these supplementary and enabling capabilities must be in place to allow core capabilities to be developed.

Activity 2

Using an organisation you are familiar with, or one of your choice, identify at least one example of a supplemental and one example of an enabling capability that relates to the core competence you identified in the previous activity.