Case Studies in Knowledge Intensive Entrepreneurship
Edited by Maureen McKelvey and Astrid Heidemann Lassen
Chapter 8: Entrepreneurial exploitation of creative destruction and the ambiguity of knowledge in the emerging field of digital advertising
This chapter addresses how knowledge intensive entrepreneurship (KIE) in professional service firms is affected by the fact that knowledge is an uncertain asset. What this means is that in the analysis of KIE it is often impossible to separate knowledge and analytical skills from flexibility, organizing capacities, social skills and rhetorical capabilities in constructing an image of expertise. This uncertainty is further aggravated by the fact that the output – be it audit reports or advertising campaigns – tends to be difficult to evaluate objectively for outsiders. Also, the contributions of the client and the consultant are hard to disentangle. Although it is clear that specific skills – such as technical expertise, market understanding and business knowledge – are the foundation of entrepreneurial ventures, it is often difficult to clearly define and value this knowledge. In this chapter we use the concept of ‘ambiguity of knowledge’ to pinpoint this uncertainty and to analyse its effect on KIE in digital advertising (Robertson and Swan, 2003; Alvesson, 2004). In this chapter we follow two entrepreneurs, co-founders of a digital advertising agency in a small European country, during two turbulent decades. We look at how the two entrepreneurs, in their actions and interactions during their careers, seized the opportunities created during this period and handled the ambiguity of knowledge in order to create successful KIE ventures. These two individuals are part of a larger sample of 20 entrepreneurs we have studied to see how advertising agencies have adopted the Internet and to find out the role of award shows in their entrepreneurial success.
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