Enriching Absorptive Capacity Through Social Interaction

Jasper J. Hotho, Florian Becker-Ritterspach, Ayse Saka-Helmhout

    Research output: Working paperResearch

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    Absorptive capacity is frequently highlighted as a key determinant of knowledge transfer within MNEs. But how individual behaviour translates into absorptive capacity at the subsidiary level, and exactly how this is contingent on subsidiaries’ social context, remains under-addressed. This not only limits our understanding of the relationship between individual and organizational level absorptive capacity, it also hampers further research on potentially relevant managerial and organizational antecedents, and limits the implications we can draw for practitioners that seek to increase their organization’s capacity to put new knowledge to use. To address this shortcoming we conduct an in-depth comparative case study of a headquarters-initiated knowledge transfer initiative at two subsidiaries of the same MNE. The findings demonstrate that social interaction is a prerequisite for subsidiary absorptive capacity as it enables employees to participate in the transformation of new knowledge to the local context and the development of local applications. Second, the findings illustrate how organizational conditions at the subsidiary level can impact subsidiary
    absorptive capacity by enabling or constraining local interaction patterns. These insights contribute to the absorptive capacity literature by demonstrating the scale and scope of social interaction as a key link between individual- and organizational-level absorptive capacity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
    PublisherCenter for Strategic Management and Globalization
    Number of pages54
    ISBN (Electronic)9788791815584
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
    SeriesSMG Working Paper

    Bibliographical note

    To be published in: British Journal of Management, Vol. 23, Issue 3, pp. 383-401, 2012


    • Absorptive capacity
    • Social interaction
    • Subsidiary learning

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