This study examines how a company can generate innovation opportunities by exploring and absorbing customer knowledge. The exploration can be performed via an in-depth or broad search for resources beyond organisational boundaries. Salespeople are an essential channel for an in-depth search in relation to customers, since salespeople possess rich knowledge of the customers. In order to be useful, such knowledge has to be absorbed in the company. Most of the literature on absorptive capacity has focused on R&D, while less focus has been placed on studying the role of individuals in the development of integrative practices. This paper demonstrates how a community of practice can enable organisations to move from potential absorptive capacity to realised absorptive capacity.
Keywords: exploration, absorptive capacity, communities of practice, customer knowledge, sales, action research, actionable knowledge, innovation