Absorbing knowledge from and with external partners: The role of social integration mechanisms
With Christoph Schneider and Paul B. Lowry
Dynamic capabilities that enable innovation are crucial to survival and success in to- day’s highly competitive business environment, because they enable organizational adaptation, transformation, and seizing of opportunities. Absorptive capacity is an im- portant dynamic capability that enables organizations to leverage external knowledge for innovation purposes. In this theory-building article, we address the fundamental re- search question of how organizations can leverage external partners as external sources of knowledge. We offer three primary contributions to the literature on managerial decision-making. First, by conceptualizing knowledge absorption as a collaborative, interorganizational endeavor, we extend the literature on absorptive capacity, thereby enabling its application to innovation-related contexts aside from R&D, to which it has traditionally been applied. Second, by focusing on social integration mechanisms as links between the capabilities, expertise, and knowledge of individuals, groups, and the organization as a whole, we heed calls to clarify the microfoundations of organizational capabilities. Third, although social integration is a multidimensional construct, few stud- ies have addressed the influence of its individual dimensions. We outline how individual social integration dimensions exert differing influences on the individual knowledge absorption stages, thereby taking a first step toward unraveling the multidimensional na- ture of social integration and laying the foundation for future social integration research both in and beyond the absorptive capacity context.