This article introduces the concept of the capability lifecycle (CLC), which articulates general patterns and paths in the evolution of organizational capabilities over time. The capability lifecycle provides a structure for a more comprehensive approach to dynamic resource-based theory. The analysis incorporates the founding, development, and maturity of capabilities in a manner that helps to explain the sources of heterogeneity in organizational capabilities. In addition, the analysis includes the ‘branching’ of an original capability into several possible altered forms. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.