Progress, Problems, and Prospects

More than two decades after the publication of Cohen and Levinthal’s (1989, 1990) seminal studies, an astounding number of studies has appeared taking absorptive capacity as one of the building blocks. Because of conceptual and methodological problems and challenges, studies have also sought to refine, reconceptualize, reify, and even rejuvenate the construct (Lane et al., 2006; Todorova and Durisin, 2007; Volberda et al., 2010; Zahra and George, 2002). Our review illustrates that, even though our understanding of the role and value of absorptive capacity has progressed strongly, problems and prospects for future research remain and merit discussion. An overview of the progress, problems, and prospects along the aspects covered in the current review is provided in Table 13.5.

Table 13.5 Progress, problems, and future research

Progress Future research
Definition High Creating uniformity
Definition should not broaden operationalizations
Dimensions Medium Consistency in dimensions
Measurement Low Consistency in operationalization
More focus on the nature and type of knowledge stocks and existing knowledge bases for operationalizing absorptive capacity
Less reliance on R&D-based and patent-based measures as measures of absorptive capacity
Operationalize different capabilities constituting absorptive capacity separately
Include measures that capture cumulativeness and learning dynamics of absorptive capacity
Levels ...

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