Must be a core capabilities story in here somewhere

I am a very strong advocate of using formal methods of theory construction in strategy. As a result, I tend to devote quite a bit of ink to pointing out why editorial aversion to formalism has acted as a major drag on theoretical progress in our field. Yet …

… one of the things that attracted me to strategy in the first place was its early lead in developing interesting explanations for persistent heterogeneity in firm performance (though, as I mention here, it appears that lead has been eroding over the last decade). Thus, even as we learn the myriad ways in which the resource-based view requires substantial refinement, there is doubtlessly some “there” there.

One example that struck me this morning is Jawbone’s announcement of their new Up product. Here we have a firm that is an established player in the bluetooth headset market introducing a very innovative, wireless health-related product. The Up is a bracelet that automatically tracks physical activity, food intake and sleep cycles. The launch date is Nov. 6 and the initial price point is $100. Sounds like a cool idea.

Apropos the theme of this post, the Up represents a major extension in the scope of Jawbone’s product line and entry in to a new market. The Up more closely related to the  Withings WiFi bathroom scale than a bluetooth headset (the scale, I can tell you, is a terrific product if you are tech-inclined). Presumably, the Up relies on the firm’s existing wireless know-how, customer understanding, and distribution channels as well as a healthy dose of new technology.

Succeed of fail, this story will surely make its way into the pages of an HBS case study one day.


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