This paper deals with a central challenge in organization and management research: to predict the evolution of an organization’s adaptive capability. We address both theoretical and methodological gaps in existing research. First, focusing on the largely overlooked external constraints on adaptive capability, we model how ties between an organization and its market audiences curtail adaptive capability as market tenure increases. Second, we address the methodological weakness of conceptualizing the content of organizational change in prior research with a novel approach. Our distance‐based approach sees adaptation as change in an organization’s position in a cognitive market space. With position defined, one can measure the speed of movement in that space. An analysis of the UK motorcycle market serves as an empirical illustration for our theoretical prediction and proposed measure.