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Competitive advantage is the means by which a firm manages to keep making money and sustain its position against its competitors.

Resource-Based view perspective

Competitive advantage is a theory that seeks to address some of the criticisms of comparative advantage. Michael Porter proposed the theory in 1990. Competitive advantage theory suggests that states and businesses should pursue policies that create high-quality goods to sell at high prices in the market. Porter emphasizes productivity growth as the focus of national strategies. Competitive advantage rests on the notion that cheap labor is ubiquitous and natural resources are not necessary for a good economy. The other theory, comparative advantage can lead countries to specialize in exporting primary goods and raw materials that trap countries in low-wage economies due to terms of trade. Competitive advantage attempts to correct for this issue by stressing maximizing scale economies in goods and services that garner premium prices (Stutz and Warf 2009).

Competitive advantage occurs when an organization acquires or develops an attribute or combination of attributes that allows it to outperform its competitors. These attributes can include access to natural resources, such as high grade ores or inexpensive power, or access to highly trained and skilled personnel human resources. New technologies such as robotics and information technology either to be included as a part of the product, or to assist making it. The term competitive advantage is the ability gained through attributes and resources to perform at a higher level than others in the same industry or market (Christensen and Fahey 1984, Kay 1994, Porter 1980 cited by Chacarbaghi and Lynch 1999, p.45). The study of such advantage has attracted profound research interest due to contemporary issues regarding superior performance levels of firms in the present competitive market conditions. “A firm is said to have a competitive advantage when it is implementing a value creating strategy not simultaneously being implemented by any current or potential player” (Barney 1991 cited by Clulow et al.2003, p.221). Successfully implemented strategies will lift a firm to superior performance by facilitating the firm with competitive advantage to outperform current or potential players (Passemard and Calantone 2000, p.18). To gain competitive advantage a business strategy of a firm manipulates the various resources over which it has direct control and these resources have the ability to generate competitive advantage (Reed and Fillippi 1990 cited by Rijamampianina 2003, p.362). Superior performance outcomes and superiority in production resources reflects competitive advantage (Day and Wesley 1988 cited by Lau 2002, p.125).

Above writings signify competitive advantage as the ability to stay ahead of present or potential competition, thus superior performance reached through competitive advantage will ensure market leadership. Also it provides the understanding that resources held by a firm and the business strategy will have a profound impact on generating competitive advantage. Powell (2001, p.132) views business strategy as the tool that manipulates the resources and create competitive advantage, hence, viable business strategy may not be adequate unless it possess control over unique resources that has the ability to create such a unique advantage. Summarizing the view points, competitive advantage is a key determinant of superior performance and it will ensure survival and prominent placing in the market. Superior performance being the ultimate desired goal of a firm, competitive advantage becomes the foundation highlighting the significant importance to develop same.


Further reading

  • Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance by Michael E. Porter
  • Creating Competitive Advantage: Give Customers a Reason to Choose You Over Your Competitors by Jaynie L. Smith
  • Using MIS by David M. Kroenke pages 71–77
  • Unraveling The Resource-Based Tangle by Peteraf M. & Barney J (2003). Managerial and Decision Economics 24. DOI:10.1002/mde.1126


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