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Knowledge Integration and Dynamic Organizational Adaptation in Family Firms


  • We are grateful to special issue editors Franz Kellermanns and Sabine Klein and two anonymous reviewers, for their insightful and developmental feedback, which led to substantial improvements in our work. We also benefited greatly from the valuable comments and suggestions on earlier drafts from Pramodita Sharma and from developmental comments by Sanjay Goel and Shaker Zahra. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2007 FERC and the 2007 IFERA conferences. This research project has received financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation, which is gratefully acknowledged.

Francesco Chirico, University of Lugano (USI)—Institute of Management, Centre for Entrepreneurship & Family Firms (CEF), Via G. Buffi 13, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland; tel: +41586664474;

Carlo Salvato, Bocconi University—Management Department, Viale Isonzo 23, 20135 Milan, Italy; tel: +390258362535/32;


The speed of change in competitive environments has prompted firms to develop processes directed at enabling organizational adaptation. This is captured by the concept of dynamic capabilities. We focus on a particular form of business organization, that is, the family firm. Specifically, we argue that knowledge integration—a dynamic capability through which family members' specialized knowledge is recombined—guides the evolution of capabilities. We present a general framework illustrating factors that affect knowledge integration in family firms. We conclude that only those family firms that are able to effectively integrate individual family members' specialized knowledge will be successful in dynamic markets by changing their capabilities over time.