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Title: Investigating absorptive capacity in boards, corporate governance and the value creating board
Author: Schonning, Aud Randi
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 2331
Awarding Body: University of Wolverhampton
Current Institution: University of Wolverhampton
Date of Award: 2013
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Within corporate governance research, boards of directors constitute an essential part and are described as "the apex of the internal control system" (Jensen, 1993, p.862). Several stands of research have investigated whether, and to which degree, boards’ composition, structure and processes have impact on board task performance, but board processes and specifically the use of knowledge and skills have not been thoroughly researched, yet. Simultaneously, there is a gap within organisational behaviour research on how knowledge is explored, transformed and exploited, which is conceptualised as absorptive capacity. Further, the concept of absorptive capacity has so to date not been researched in a board context. In this thesis board processes are studied by exploring the impact of absorptive capacity on board task performance. Three dimensions of absorptive capacity, exploratory learning, transformative learning and exploitative learning, are used in the analyses. The research is conducted using mixed methods (based on a survey and a case study). A quantitative analysis is based on the Norwegian Value Creating Board Survey, and a case study is conducted based on records, observations from board meetings and interviews in the Norwegian health company Healthy. The findings show that the three dimensions of absorptive capacity, positively and significantly, mediate the relation between presence of knowledge and skills and board task performance. Complementarities between the three learning processes exist with the result that the three learning processes together are a stronger mediator than a single process. The qualitative findings show that 1) information flows have an impact on absorptive capacity, 2) that the role and power of the CEO and the division of labour between the CEO and the chair, might have an impact on board task performance and 3) that a comprehensive utilisation of consensus has an impact on transformative and exploitative learning, 4) that effort norms are positively correlated to use of knowledge and skills and 5) that activation triggers have impacts on the learning processes. The research contributes to theory with an extended application of the concept of absorptive capacity to boards, responding to calls from researchers to conduct new and more extensive research to analyse and integrate the concept. The thesis further contributes by shedding new light on learning processes in boards, underpinning former conceptual models. In the case study several findings are reported which are presented in an extended and modified model of determinants of board tasks. Finally, this thesis contributes to mixed methods research in boards. The findings have implications for board practice with regard to board selections, board evaluations and learning processes in boards. Corporate governance codes should be aligned with these findings.
Supervisor: Machold, Silke ; Huse, Morten Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Absorbtive capacity ; Boards ; Corporate governance ; Use of knowledge ; Consensus ; Information flow ; Knowledge flow ; Activation triggers ; Case study