human capital, strategic management, review, theory, strategic human capital


As strategic human capital scholars we have been deeply influenced by the work of Russ Coff (1997, 1999) and other notable scholars (Barney, 1991; Castanias & Helfat, 1991, 2001, Lepak & Snell, 1999, 2002; Lippman & Rumelt, 1982) who have pushed us to think about human assets differently from other inanimate assets in strategy theory. For this virtual special issue we simply asked a question of recently published research on human capital in strategy: what are the dominant human capital themes in our premier strategy journal? This question guided a few assumptions, which then determined which articles we included in this virtual special issue. First, we assumed that the Strategic Management Journal (SMJ) is the flagship journal for modern strategy research. We thus limited our focus to only papers published in the SMJ. Second, we wanted to focus on the most recent research. Accordingly, we limited our focus to articles published in the last 10 years (July 2008- July 2018). Third, we wanted to identify articles that were wrestling with one or more of the fundamental management dilemmas identified by Coff (1997). Thus, we initially drew only articles citing this seminal piece or his more recent work with Campbell and Kryscynski (2012). This resulted in 47 articles that we reviewed for relevance to the human capital agenda. Within this set of articles we identified the embedded themes and trends – almost all of these articles cited both Coff (1997) and Campbell, Coff & Kryscynski (2012). Our (admittedly biased) analysis suggests four major human capital themes during this time period in SMJ: (1) firm-specific human capital, (2) complementary assets, (3) incentives and (4) signaling. We include in the virtual special issue a handful of articles that seemed to illustrate the spirit of each theme. A summary of the included articles along with the associated themes, sub themes and theoretical contributions is shown in Table 1 below. We briefly discuss each them in the following sections.

Original Publication Citation

Kryscynski, D., & Morris, S. 2019. Human Capital in Strategy 2008 – 2018. Strategic Management Journal. Invited article for the Virtual Special Issue.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Strategic Management Journal




Marriott School of Management



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor

Included in

Business Commons