Prevailing studies have demonstrated the importance of learning for an organization's innovation outcome. Both strategic management and strategic marketing theories have stressed the importance of continuously reinventing business models and creating new customer value. We extend these views by focusing on the impact of deliberate learning mechanisms on an organization's strategic innovation capacity. To this end, we re-interpret absorptive capacity through a cognition lens. A PLS analysis on survey data suggests that strategic innovation capacity is strengthened when managers deliberately install specific learning mechanisms on the three dimensions of absorptive capacity: knowledge recognition, assimilation and exploitation. Results complement existing research by indicating the importance of deliberate action when trying to break through existing industry practices. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.