The Configuration of Internal and External Practiced Routines of Absorptive Capacity: A New Perspective.
Arie Y. Lewin
The fifteen years following the introduction of the seminal construct of absorptive capacity (AC) by Cohen and Levinthal (1989, 1990) have seen the proliferation of a vast literature citing the AC construct in over 1500 published papers, chapters and books and interpreting it or applying it in many areas of organization science research, including organization theory, strategic management, and economics. However, with very few exceptions, the specific organizational routines and processes that constitute AC capabilities remain a black box. In this paper we propose a routine based model of AC that also operationalizes the AC construct. We decompose the construct of AC into two components, internal and external AC capabilities, and identify the configuration of meta-routines underlying these two components. The meta-routines are expressed within organizations by configurations of practiced routines that are observable and measurable. The ability of organizations to discover and implement complementarities between practiced AC routines may explain why some firms are successful early adopters and most firms are imitators. Success as an early adopter of a new management practice or an innovation is expected to depend on the extent to which an organization designs and implements the configuration of its internal and external absorptive capacity routines.
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