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Creative Search and Strategic Sense-making: Missing Dimensions in the Concept of Dynamic Capabilities


  • This paper benefited from the Marie Curie Intra-European grant (MEIF-CT-2005–023268) to the first author.


In this paper we discuss the role of managerial agency in creating and shaping dynamic capabilities. We argue that dynamic capability is a phenomenon that enables a deviation to take place from the knowledge that otherwise would have arisen cumulatively from experiential learning. In addition we argue that to create major changes in patterns of knowledge accumulation managers need to be purposefully and creatively engaged. Such agency is identifiable in two cognitive processes we call creative search and strategic sense-making. We show how these processes differ in respect to their temporal orientation and relationship to uncertainty and by adopting a process perspective we demonstrate how creative search, strategic sense-making and experiential learning are complementary. This notion of complementarity implies that these processes, notwithstanding their contrasting characteristics, coexist together and serve to offer an explanation for how knowledge progresses at a firm level. Variance is introduced into the framework proposed through the identification of factors that influence the coexistence of creative search and strategic sense-making. The argument developed is illustrated through the use of an emergent technology context.