World Scientific
  • Search
Skip main navigation

Cookies Notification

We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By continuing to browse the site, you consent to the use of our cookies. Learn More
Our website is made possible by displaying certain online content using javascript.
In order to view the full content, please disable your ad blocker or whitelist our website

System Upgrade on Tue, Oct 25th, 2022 at 2am (EDT)

Existing users will be able to log into the site and access content. However, E-commerce and registration of new users may not be available for up to 12 hours.
For online purchase, please visit us again. Contact us at [email protected] for any enquiries.


    This paper contributes to the literature and management practice by opening the “black box” of firms’ absorptive capacity (AC) processes. Following a process research approach and based on in-depth comparative case studies of four German manufacturing companies, we develop and empirically validate a procss model of the firm-internal AC process. Our model integrates the different single elements (e.g., individuals, teams, departments) as well as the different linear and nonlinear causal interactions that constitute the firm’s ability to identify, adopt, implement and exploit external information and knowledge. Furthermore, the paper elaborates on various organizational leverages to increase the effectiveness of the identified process flows. The findings provide explanatory insight into the organisational prerequisites of AC. Thus, the paper simultaneously contributes to enhance the academic and management’s understanding of firms’ AC by identifying its constitutional key elements, their different kinds of processual interrelation as well as organisational prerequisites and points of leverage to modify, measure, and improve the AC of a company.


    • Aldrich, H and D Herker [1977] Boundary spanning roles and organization structure. Academy of Management Review, 2 (2), 217–230. Google Scholar
    • Ambrosini, V, C Bowman and N Collier [2009] Dynamic capabilities: An exploration of how firms renew their resource base. British Journal of Management, 20 (1), 9–S24. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Amniattalab, A and R Ansari [2016] The effect of strategic foresight on competitive advantage with the mediating role of organisational ambidexterity. International Journal of Innovation Management, 20 (3), 377–400. LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Bennett, N and GJ Lemoine [2014] What a difference a word makes: Understanding threats to performance in a VUCA world. Business Horizons, 57 (3), 311–317. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Caiazza, R and T Volpe [2017] Innovation and its diffusion: Process, actors and actions. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 29 (2), 181–189. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Camisón, C and B Forés [2010] Knowledge absorptive capacity: New insights for its conceptualization and measurement. Journal of Business Research, 63 (7), 707–715. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Chesbrough, H [2003] The logic of open innovation: Managing intellectual property. California Management Review, 45 (3), 33–58. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Chesbrough, H, W Vanhaverbeke and J West [2006] Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm. (Oxford University Press) on Demand. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
    • Christensen, CM [2013] The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. (Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, Mass). Google Scholar
    • Cohen, WM and DA Levinthal [1990] Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35 (1), 128–152. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Corley, KG and DA Gioia [2004] Identity ambiguity and change in the wake of a corporate spin-off. Administrative Science Quarterly, 49 (2), 173–208. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Easterby-Smith, M, M Graca, E Antonacopoulou and J Ferdinand [2008] Absorptive capacity: A process perspective. Manage. Learn, 39 (5), 483–501. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Eisenhardt, KM [1989] Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14 (4), 532–550. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Eisenhardt, KM and JA Martin [2000] Dynamic capabilities: What are they? Strategic Management Journal, 21, 1105–1121. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Filippini, R, WH Güttel, P Neirotti and A Nosella [2012] The different modes for absorbing knowledge: An analytic lens on absorptive capacity from a process perspective. International Journal of Knowledge Management Studies, 5 (1–2), 45–65. Google Scholar
    • Galati, F [2015] At what level is your organization managing knowledge? Measuring Business Excellence, 19 (2), 57–70. Google Scholar
    • Galati, F and B Bigliardi [2016] The unintended effect of the Orphan Drug Act on the adoption of open innovation. Science and Public Policy, 43 (6), 840–848. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Garud, R, P Tuertscher and AH van de Ven [2013] Perspectives on innovation processes. Academy of Management Annals, 7 (1), 775–819. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Gioia, DA, KG Corley and AL Hamilton [2013] Seeking qualitative rigor in inductive research: Notes on the Gioia methodology. Organizational Research Methods, 16 (1), 15–31. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Gupta, AK and V Govindarajan [2000] Knowledge flows within multinational corporations. Strategic Management Journal, 21, 473–496. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Gupta, AK, KG Smith and CE Shalley [2006] The interplay between exploration and exploitation. Academy of Management Journal, 49 (4), 693–706. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Henderson, RM and KB Clark [1990] Architectural innovation: The reconfiguration of existing product technologies and the failure of established firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35 (1), 9–30. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Henttonen, K and H Lehtimäki [2017] Open innovation in SMEs: Collaboration modes and strategies for commercialization in technology-intensive companies in forestry industry. European Journal of Innovation Management, 20 (2), 329–347. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Hobday, M, G Dosi and L Marengo (2000). Problem-solving behaviours, organizational forms and the complexity of tasks. EM Working Paper Series no. 2000/06. Google Scholar
    • Horvat, D (2015). Absorptive capacity, auswärtigen Niederlassungen multinationaler Unternehmen: Eine vergleichende Analyse der Wissensabsorptionsprozesse zweier Unternehmen aus der Antriebstechnik. Hamburg: Kovač. Google Scholar
    • Hoyer, WD, R Chandy, M Dorotic, M Krafft and SS Singh , [2010] Consumer cocreation in new product development. Journal of Service Research, 13 (3), 283–296. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Jansen, JJP [2005] Ambidextrous Organizations: A Multiple-Level Study of Absorptive Capacity, Exploratory and Exploitative Innovation and Performance, no. 55, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Google Scholar
    • Jansen, JJP, Van Den Bosch, Frans AJ and HW Volberda , [2005] Managing potential and realized absorptive capacity: How do organizational antecedents matter? Academy of Management Journal, 48 (6), 999–1015. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Kim, L [1998] Crisis construction and organizational learning: Capability building in catching-up at Hyundai motor. Organization Science, 9 (4), 506–521. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Kogut, B and U Zander [1992] Knowledge of the firm, combinative capabilities, and the replication of technology. Organization Science, 3 (3), 383–397. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Langley, A [1999] Strategies for theorizing from process data. Academy of Management Review, 24 (4), 691–710. Crossref, ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Marabelli, M and S Newell [2014] Knowing, power and materiality: A critical review and reconceptualization of absorptive capacity. International Journal of Management Reviews, 16 (4), 479–499. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Martín-de Castro, G [2015] Knowledge management and innovation in knowledge-based and high-tech industrial markets: The role of openness and absorptive capacity. Industrial Marketing Management, 47, 143–146. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Mayring, P [2010] Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse: Grundlagen und Techniken eleventh., aktual. und überarb. Aufl. Weinheim: Beltz. Google Scholar
    • Muir, T, K Beswick and J Williamson (2013). Approaches to problem solving: Developing an understanding of naïve, routine and sophisticated problem-solving behaviours. Google Scholar
    • Nonaka, I [1994] A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organization Science, 5 (1), 14–37. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Nooteboom, B [2009] A Cognitive Theory of the Firm: Learning, Governance and Dynamic Capabilities. Edward Elgar Publishing. Google Scholar
    • O’Hern, MS and A Rindfleisch [2010] Customer co-creation. In Review of Marketing Research, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 84–106. Google Scholar
    • Patterson, W and V Ambrosini [2015] Configuring absorptive capacity as a key process for research intensive firms. Technovation, 36, 77–89. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Petti, C and S Zhang [2016] The role of absorptive capacity in Chinese firms. Measuring Business Excellence, 20 (2), 1–12. Google Scholar
    • Poole, MS, AH van de Ven, K Dooley and ME Holmes [2000] Organizational Change and Innovation Processes: Theory and Methods for Research, Oxford University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
    • Schreyögg, G and M Kliesch-Eberl [2007] How dynamic can organizational capabilities be?: Towards a dual-process model of capability dynamization. Strategic Management Journal, 28, 913–933. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Som, O [2012] Innovation without R&D: Heterogeneous Innovation Patterns of Non-R&D-Performing Firms in the German Manufacturing Industry. Wiesbaden: Springer Science & Business Media. Google Scholar
    • Teece, DJ, G Pisano and A Shuen , [1997] Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 18, 509–533. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Todorova, G and B Durisin [2007] Absorptive capacity: Valuing a reconceptualization. Academy of Management Review, 32 (3), 774–786. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Tsoukas, H [1996] The firm as a distributed knowledge system: A constructionist approach. Strategic Management Journal, 17 (S2), 11–25. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Tushman, ML and TJ Scanlan [1981] Boundary spanning individuals: Their role in information transfer and their antecedents. Academy of Management Journal, 24 (2), 289–305. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • van de Ven, AH and MS Poole [1995] Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20 (3), 510–540. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • van de Ven, AH and MS Poole [2005] Alternative approaches for studying organizational change. Organization Science, 29 (8–9), 1187. Google Scholar
    • van den Bosch, F, R van Wijk and HW Volberda (2006). Absorptive capacity: Antecedents, models and outcomes. ERIM Report Series Reference no. ERS-2003-035-STR, Erasnus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), The Netherlauds. Google Scholar
    • van den Bosch FransAJ, HW Volberda and M de Boer [1999] Coevolution of firm absorptive capacity and knowledge environment: Organizational forms and combinative capabilities. Organization Science, 10 (5), 551–568. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • van Wijk, R, JJP Jansen and MA Lyles , [2008] Inter- and intra-organizational knowledge transfer: A meta-analytic review and assessment of its antecedents and consequences. Journal of Management Studies, 45 (4), 830–853. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Volberda, HW, NJ Foss and MA Lyles , [2010] Absorbing the concept of absorptive capacity: How to realize its potential in the organization field. Organization Science, 21 (4), 931–951. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Yang, Y, J Hong, G Song and S Hong , [2017] Technology policy, technology strategy and innovation performance: Evidence from Chinese aircraft and spacecraft manufacturing. Science and Public Policy, 44 (5), 620–630. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Yin, RK [2009] Case study Research: Design and Methods, Los Angeles, CA.: Sage. Google Scholar
    • Zahra, SA and G George [2002] Absorptive capacity: A review, reconceptualization, and extension. Academy of Management Review, 27 (2), 185–203. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Zollo, M and SG Winter , [2002] Deliberate learning and the evolution of dynamic capabilities. Organization Science, 13 (3), 339–351. ISIGoogle Scholar
    • Zubielqui, GC de, J Jones and L Lester [2016] Knowledge inflows from market- and science-based actors, absorptive capacity, innovation and performance — a study of SMEs. International Journal of Innovation Management, 20 (6). LinkGoogle Scholar
    Remember to check out the Most Cited Articles!

    Be inspired by these New Titles in Business and Management