Prospects for developing absorptive capacity through internal information provision

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Abstract

Theories of absorptive capacity propose that knowledge gained from prior experience facilitates the identification, selection, and implementation of related profitable practices. Researchers have investigated how managers may develop absorptive capacity by building internal knowledge stocks, but few have focused on the distribution of this knowledge within the firm and the role managers play in administering information to organizational subunits. In this paper, we explore the degree to which managers can develop absorptive capacity by directly providing information to agents in the organization that might potentially adopt a new practice. We find that the effectiveness of managerial information provision depends on the degree to which potential adopters have information from other sources. We find that information from previous adopters and past events reduces the effect of information provision, while experience with related practices amplifies it. Our research helps clarify when absorptive capacity may provide a sustained competitive advantage. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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