How can your Absorptive Capacity determine your competitive advantage?

What is absorptive capacity?  You may well ask!

In a nut-shell it is an organisation’s ability to keep ahead of the curve by ensuring it is always open to innovation through learning, networking, meeting with suppliers, talking to customers and being a pro-active member of business networks and associations, i.e. by having an outward-looking business strategy.

How does this help?  Well, it means that those organisations have a pulse on what is happening in the market-place, they can see changes and opportunities, and they are in the right place to have business knowledge that will help them to understand their place in the competitive landscape, and to see the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal factors that affect the business environment in which they sit.

So, is acquiring the knowledge enough to justify all those long lunches and time out of the office?    The next challenge is assimilating how that knowledge can be used to make your business more effective.  How many times do we meet new suppliers or pick up brochures at exhibitions and not fully understand what is being offered.  Therefore, it is important to ensure that the right team members go to the right meetings and exhibitions, as they should have a fundamental understanding of the business and what challenges it faces.  That way, when they gather the latest information they should be able to tell if there might be an opportunity implement something new for the benefit of the business.

It isn’t always as easy as being given a key that fits the door though.  Sometimes we must apply what we have learnt in a unique way, and ‘think outside the box’.  This shows our ability as an organisation to transform the knowledge for our benefit.  How can we best do this?  It is important to share any knowledge gained by encouraging the flow of knowledge among the team, and to discuss how it could potentially help.  There is no point attending networking events or exhibitions and bringing back business cards and brochures that are filed away and never see the light of day again.  We need to offer a work environment where the information is openly discussed and shared, and further discussions with outside bodies arranged.

At this point you can derive the benefit of the knowledge absorbed, and implement it within your business, hopefully to gain competitive advantage.

So, you can see that an ability to establish relevant networks and gather and use information is closely tied with an organisation’s ability to innovate and to remain competitive. Confidence emerges only from a familiarity with your network and trust in those with whom knowledge is being shared.  It helps you stay ahead of the curve rather than simply re-acting with a knee jerk measure to specific external stimuli.  It is imperative that this is part of a continuous improvement programme.  Staying up to date is critical for long-term survival as it can reinforce, complement or refocus your knowledge base.  As professional leaders in their field the Hospitality Assured community have an active role to play in bridging connections between acquired knowledge and generating innovation and competitive advantage.

About the Author: Heather Lishman

Heather, Director of Hospitality Assured is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality (IOH) and currently serves on the IOH Executive Committee. A trained Hospitality Assured Assessor since 2011, Heather has assessed 40 business across the hospitality sector, and she now runs a successful hospitality consultancy.

Hospitality Assured – Helping organisations achieve competitive advantage through business and service excellence. 

Hospitality Assured is a customer-centric service and business excellence standard widely used by a variety of hospitality businesses in the UK and has reached as far as Abu Dhabi and the Caribbean.  It is a continuous improvement business tool endorsed by the IOH, BHA, BQF and Quality Scotland.  The process supports improvement in strategic management and in turn the customer quality experience.  For more information @HospAssured