To meet the challenge of digital transformation and remain competitive in an increasingly volatile business environment many incumbent companies have set up digital innovation units (DIU). Despite a steady increase in the body of knowledge, current research paints a rather static picture of DIUs due to a lack of studies that have collected data over an extended period of time to examine DIU-related processes. Based on empirical data from an in-depth, longitudinal case study with an incumbent machine manufacturer we examine the process of building a DIU and how the main organization can develop and expand its adaptive capacity (AC) in the process. We identify three mechanisms that positively impact the expansion of AC as well as five disturbing factors. Furthermore, we give first implications and point at the research avenue of the relationship between AC and trust.