Connections and disconnections between the human development capabilities approach (hdca) and dynamic capabilities in organizational theory

Ng, Raphael Cornelius (2019). 'Connections and disconnections between the human development capabilities approach (HDCA) and dynamic capabilities in organizational theory' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA 2019, London, UK.


Within business-related areas, the Human Development Capabilities Approach (HDCA) has found a broad variety of applications including within organizational management (e.g. Human Resource Management, Talent Management etc.)[1], on the workplace and employment[2], entrepreneurship[3], job satisfaction[4], stakeholder theory[5], labour and skills development[6], CSR[7], and Business and Human Rights[8]amongst others. Yet, little – if not none – of the HDCA have been applied to organizational theory and in the theory of the firm. These areas might seem insignificant and simply another two theoretical areas adding to an already large list, however, without addressing them, the HDCA cannot be fully integrated into the collective arrangement of the firm or business enterprise. One reason why there is a strong reluctance for HDCA to penetrate into the area of organizational theory is because this area is already dominated by another form of a "capabilities" approach: namely Dynamic Capabilities. In spite of the coincidence in their use of the word "capabilities", the concept and background of Dynamic Capabilities are cleanly distinct from that of HDCA. However, this distinctness also prevents HDCA from entering into organizational theory, as many scholars do not appreciate confusing one set of concepts for the other, and likely also because the scholarships and backgrounds in practice of each of these capabilities approaches spring from very dissimilar ways of thinking and disciplines, that even an interdisciplinarity between them (Org. theory: business administration vs Human development: international development) is hard to come by.

This paper sets out to dive deeper into the comparison between both forms of capabilities approach. It justifies doing so by arguing pragmatically that 1). simply ignoring one or the other's capabilities approach is neither helpful, productive, nor protects the development of each concept (instead, each concept is stuck in developing into or beyond Org. theory.) and 2). by comparing both capabilities concepts fully, the article will add to both HDCA and Dynamic Capabilities literatures for scholarship from both sides to more fully understand the other capabilities concepts from their own respective positions. The aim here is to facilitate a deeper appreciation of both concepts and to end the denigratory and superficial attitudes towards each other simply because of specialization or the boundaries of one discipline towards another.

Comparisons between the HDCA and Dynamic Capabilities will enter into a). what they are conceptually about generally, and more deeply into b). the economic theoretical basis underlying each capabilities concept: specifically, with HDCA through the economics of Social Choice Theory developed by Sen, and with Dynamic Capabilities through Schumpeterian economics. Finally, a table charting the comparison of both approaches will be provided, illustrating all mentioned details about each capabilities approach and categorically compared side by side with each other. Altogether, the research offered through this paper aims to connect two differing disciplines and capabilities approach to enhance scholarly and evaluative work drawing on human development and the capabilities approach (HDCA) and Dynamic Capabilities.

Strands of work on connection (No. 5): Connecting disciplines to enhance scholarly and evaluative work drawing on human development and the capability approach.

Keywords: 1). Human Development Capabilities Approach (HDCA), 2). Dynamic Capabilities Approach (DCA), 3). Organizational Theory.

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[2]Gagnon, S. and Cornelius, N. (2000), Re-examining workplace equality: the capabilities approach. Human Resource Management Journal, 10 (4): 68–87.

[3]Gries, T. and Naude´, W. (2011) ‘Entrepreneurship and human development: a capability approach‘,‘ Journal of Public Economics, 95(3–4), pp. 216–224.

[4]Lessmann, O. and Bonvin, J. M. (2010) ‘Job satisfaction in the broader framework of the Capability Approach’, Management Revue, 22(1), pp. 84–99

[5]Westermann-Behaylo, M., Van Buren, H., & Berman, S. (2016). Stakeholder Capability Enhancement as a Path to Promote Human Dignity and Cooperative Advantage. Business Ethics Quarterly, 26(4), 529-555. doi:10.1017/beq.2016.46'

[6]Sánchez, G. F. and Griffin J. M. (2011) Defining the Boundaries between Unpaid Labor and Unpaid Caregiving: Review of the Social and Health Sciences Literature, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 12:4, 511-534, DOI: 10.1080/19452829.2011.613370, and Heckman, J.J. and Corbin, C.O. (2016) Capabilities and Skills, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 17:3, 342-359, DOI: 10.1080/19452829.2016.1200541

[7]Parra, C. M. (2008) Quality of Life Markets: Capabilities and Corporate Social Responsibility, Journal of Human Development, 9:2, 207-227, DOI: 10.1080/14649880802078751

[8]Greathead, S, Loomis, K. & Rhein W. (2001) Business and Human Rights in the Year 2000, Journal of Human Development, 2:1, 19-26, DOI: 10.1080/14649880120050156

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