Knowledge management in services outsourcing: The effects of learning capabilities and GDPR.
Since its introduction by Cohen and Levinthal (1989), the “Absorptive Capacity” (AC) emerged as one of the most important concepts within the organisational research. The rapid growth of the absorptive capacity literature stream is mainly due to its unique conceptualisation as a set of combinative organisational capabilities which allow firms to recognise, assimilate and apply new knowledge. It is also due to its overlapping with other popular organisational practices like the knowledge management, strategic alliances and organisational learning. This wide interest toward the absorptive capacity induced to many reconceptualization of this concept in the literature. The most famous reconceptualization of AC is the one conducted by Zahra and George (2002) who define AC as a set of organizational capabilities by which firms acquire, assimilate, transform, and exploit knowledge to produce a dynamic organizational capability. This new conceptualisation of AC considers four dimensions of organisational knowledge processing which are divided into two main categories. The potential absorptive capacity (PACAP) which contains the knowledge acquisition and assimilation dimensions, and the realised absorptive capacity (RACAP) which comprises the knowledge transformation and exploitation ones.
Through a combination of the relational learning perspective and the dynamic capability theory, this research aims to investigate the mediating role of absorptive capacity in the improvement of relationships’ performances within client-supplier learning dyads. To answer this research question, this study will consider the original conceptualisation of AC as a multidimensional organisational knowledge management and transpose it to the client-supplier dyadic level in the outsourcing context. In this context, the knowledge shared between clients and suppliers, if well managed both in the individual and the dyadic levels, has a prominent role for the fostering of the individual firms' competitive advantages and for the success of the relationship as a whole entity.
Based on the conceptual framework of Zahra and George (2002), this study considers the relationship as a source of both the clients and suppliers' organisational knowledge, the absorptive capacity as a combination of potential (knowledge acquisition and assimilation) and realised (knowledge conversion and exploitation) absorptive capacities, and the relationship performances as the criterion to be assessed. Moreover, this research has other objectives than solely assess the relationship between these main variables. This research has also as objectives to assess the effects of some organisational, relational and environmental factors on the links between our main variables.
Finally, there are four main contributions of this research. First, this research would advance our understanding of the role of dynamic organisational knowledge processing in the improvement of performances deriving from the relationship learning within the outsourcing sector. Second, it will give some guidance for managers from both the client and supplier firms on how to combine their capabilities to the environmental contexts to excerpt the maximum benefits from their relationships with their partners. Third, the large majority of studies referring to Zahra and George’s model of AC are of conceptual or theoretical natures. This research is one of the rare studies to empirically assess this model and the first one to do so in the relationship learning context. Finally, this research will give some incites to scholars on the impact of the GDPR on the inter-organisational knowledge management in data-sensitive sectors.