Knowing and Growing Your Absorptive Capacity

Reading Time: 5-6 minutes

“Your absorptive capacity is proportional to your development capacity.”

Undercover Boss

One of the shows I enjoy watching is Undercover Boss. The weekly show follows CEOs of top companies who go undercover in full disguise. The goal is to learn more about their companies especially at the coalface or the frontline where the action happens. It’s exciting to see these founders “get their hands dirty” while interacting with the people who are the face of their companies. 

Besides wearing cool disguises, the CEOs get to see first hand the day to day operations of their companies outside the comfort zone of their corporate offices. This exposure has not only been a learning experience but has led to tremendous changes in their respective companies. They have improved processes and appreciated their employees. One CEO gifted an employee $250,000 for a house and furnishings upon discovering that she, her husband and their children had lived in a homeless shelter for two years.

The ending of the show each week is tearful for me as the CEO reveals who they are and sits with the employees they met while undercover. From the show, I have gleaned the value of knowing and growing my absorptive capacity

Can You Handle It?

As I watch the CEOs come to terms with the status of their companies, which is often an eye-opener, I am equally impressed by their ability to take what they have learned from engaging with employees “beneath them” and integrate them for greater progress in their organizations. This is the essence of absorptive capacity. 

Your absorptive capacity is your ability to recognize your exposure to valuable information and experiences, retain, and implement them into the fabric of your life. Unfortunately, not everyone can handle this level of exposure. Patterns of mental rigidity are often the main cause. CEOs on Undercover Boss have to be ready and willing to lay down what they think they know if they are to learn what can help their companies succeed. And if your vision is to go from a picture into reality, you must be ready to do the same by using your absorptive capacity to grow. Let’s look at the three elements of absorptive capacity one by one.


Your absorptive capacity begins with your receptivity quotient (RQ). The story is told of Apollos, a great evangelist, and communicator. His eloquence was unmatched. Yet he was limited by the knowledge he possessed. Aquila and Priscilla, on the other hand, didn’t look like much on the surface. By occupation, they were tentmakers but they possessed what Apollos lacked, like a missing piece to complete a puzzle. Instead of dismissing them, he recognized the opportunity to grow. His receptivity and absorptive capacity helped him grow in his communication and eloquence.

Can you recognize or sense moments in your path where your absorptive capacity is being challenged? Have you rejected learning opportunities you should be receptive to because of the vessel they are coming through? Has pride gotten in the way? Much like the CEOs in Undercover Boss and Apollos, these moments just might be what you need to propel your life forward. But recognition is only as valuable as your ability to retain what you absorb. 


Soil can be either dry or wet. They enter either state depending on their water retention ability. A soil’s water retention is vital to crop productivity. The effect of drought, floods, erosion, and degradation are also mitigated by a soil’s water retention. 

An important feature of a soil’s retention is its porosity. It’s equally important in determining our retention ability as well. Are you open to accepting new but needed thoughts, principles, and ideas especially when they rub against the grain of wrong patterns of thoughts and beliefs that you have carried? Are you willing to give them up to make room for what will take you to the next level? Often our mindset is the biggest hindrance to our porosity. In his book, New Thinking New Future, Dr. Samuel Chand says, “The processes and contents of our thoughts determine everything.” We can improve our porosity by constantly challenging our thinking. Here are some questions I often use to evaluate and improve my porosity:

  1. What am I thinking now?
  2. Why am I thinking this way?
  3. Where did this thinking pattern originate from?
  4. Is this pattern helpful or hurtful in light of where I am heading?
  5. What new thinking patterns do I need to grow in this season of my life?

I believe the last two questions are part of the reason why the CEO’s in Undercover Boss undertake such a humbling experience. They know the implementation that fosters change cannot happen without exposure to new and better ways of thinking. 


Without implementation, what we absorb becomes dangerous to our future. Pride grows where humility once was. Stubbornness and rigidity take the place of flexibility. But through implementation, these are kept at bay.

Both Apollos and the CEOs were probably aware of the law of diminishing intent. It states that the longer it takes to act on what we know or absorb the less probable we are to take the required action. Although the effect of a change may not be felt immediately, the action that initiates the change must be taken as soon as possible. This is the implementation phase of your absorptive capacity. Striking while the iron is hot. This stage makes the previous two worth it. Here is where what you have absorbed can transform your life. Without this piece, the absorptive capacity puzzle is incomplete. Find small ways to daily act on what you are absorbing or learning. It is also in the implementation phase that the resolve to act on what you have absorbed is developed. Without resolve, results are highly unlikely. What have you absorbed that you need to start acting on today?

Final thought: Your absorptive capacity grows as you repeatedly walk through the steps of recognition, retention, and implementation. This virtuous cycle will position you to see greater overall growth in your life. It will also inch you closer and closer to the realization of your vision. 

Keep on keeping on!

1 Comment

  1. Undercover is one of my favorite show. I cant miss a week without watching it. Needs a lot of absorptive capacity to handle the exposure that comes out. From family, business, personal life etc. This connects really well with our personal life. If you want to know more about some one, make that connection first and then the rest will follow.


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