The effects of organizational learning and absorption capacity on the performance of product innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises

Alessandra Cassol, Márcio Luiz Marietto


Objective: Verify the moderating role of absorptive capacity in the relationship between organizational learning and the performance of product innovation in small and medium-sized companies (SMEs).

Methodology: The research has a descriptive quantitative approach using the survey method and questionnaires applied to 233 owners of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). Data were analyzed using the Smart-PLS software using the structural equation modeling technique.

Originality: The research used a quantitative and descriptive approach to investigate product innovation performance in the SMEs' field. Investigations into the performance of innovation in SMEs are still a limited and little-explored field in Brazil (Manthey et al., 2017; Davila, Varvakis, North, 2019). Another prominent factor was that the absorptive capacity does not act as a moderator in the relationship between organizational learning and product innovation performance, which goes against the assumptions present in the literature.

Main results: The results showed that organizational learning influenced positively the performance of product innovation in the investigated companies, as well as organizational learning positively impacted absorption capacity. However, the moderating role of absorption capacity in the relationship between organizational learning and product innovation performance has not been confirmed in the field of study of the investigated SMEs.

Theoretical/methodological contributions: The research showed that the capacity of absorption in the investigated SMEs could not moderate, affecting the direction or intensity of product innovation performance. This fact represents a counterpoint to the previously published literature that advocates a positive relationship between AC and innovation.

Social/management contributions: The purpose of this study was to obtain more information on how SMEs absorb knowledge and transform it to improve the performance of innovations. The understanding of practices to develop the knowledge absorption capacity in SMEs is still configured as a "black box" to be explored.


Absorptive capacity; Organizational learning; Performance of product innovation; Small and medium enterprises; Structural equation modeling.

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