The purpose of this section is to give you an understanding of the importance and value of gathering external knowledge and experience and deploying it for strategic or tactical business ends. Please read and complete the Absorptive Capacity Self-Assessment Tool for your organisation – or another organisation that you are familiar with and reflect on what you learned from the exercise? You will be able to record your findings in the Reflection Note at the end of the section.


Surviving and thriving at a time when the disappearance of household name companies is becoming an almost weekly occurrence requires absorptiveness – the ability to recognise the value of external knowledge and experience, and to deploy it for strategic or tactical business ends. Absorptiveness is the capacity to scan horizons for emerging innovations, market trends, competitor strategies and social movements, to assimilate diverse intelligence within the organisation as a whole, and to respond creatively. It means asking frequent questions about how developments in globalisation, markets, technology, climate change, demographics and social values (amongst other factors) present opportunities or threats, and how they should influence the organisation’s strategic thinking.

Absorptiveness is reflected in many aspects of how an organisation works but some simple measures include:

  • scouting for new and innovative practices through Fresh Thinking Labs online and in person events, as well as other platforms, local networks and personal contacts;
  • asking new employees about what worked well in their previous organisations;
  • creating regular opportunities for managers and teams to discuss what they’ve discovered from customers, social media, conferences or any other source;
  • ensuring that there is an effective forum capable of assessing, assimilating and acting upon intelligence received from these and other activities.

You can download an in-depth Absorptive Capacity Self-Assessment Tool developed by Exeter University’s Professor John Bessant.


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