Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurship in Professional Services
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Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurship in Professional Services

Edited by Markus Reihlen and Andreas Werr

The expert contributors discuss entrepreneurship and innovation from a number of different perspectives, including the entrepreneurial professional team, the entrepreneurial firm and the institutional environment. The first part of the book looks at the challenges of entrepreneurship specific to the professional service firm while the second explores the creation and exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities in the professional service team. Part III turns to the organization and Part IV to the management and growth of the entrepreneurial professional service firm. The final part discusses the interplay between professions, firms and the institutional environment.
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Chapter 2: Knowledge integration as heedful interrelating: towards a behavioral approach to knowledge management in professional service firms

Andreas Werr


Professional service firms (PSFs) may be conceptualized as distributed knowledge systems (Grant, 1996a, 1996b; Tsoukas, 1996), consisting of a dispersed set of professionals all possessing potentially valuable knowledge for the creative solution of a specific client problem. A central logic of the PSF is the integration and leveraging of the accumulated knowledge and experience of its professionals. It is by combining the knowledge and experience of different professionals from different assignments that PSFs create value for their clients (Hargadon, 1998). This value will typically be based on some degree of creativity, as a defining characteristic of PSFs is their involvement in non-routine, problem solving activities (Løwendahl, 2005; Swart & Kinnie, 2003). Hargadon and Bechky (2006: 487), studying different kinds of consulting firms, conclude that “arriving at a creative solution was not a deviation from expected routine but rather was the expected routine.” Bringing together and leveraging this dispersed knowledge is thus a key competitive capability of the professional service firm (Sarvary, 1999). Previous research has typically dealt with this issue under the label of “knowledge management” (KM), and especially the management consulting industry has become a showcase of knowledge management in practice (e.g. Bartlett, 1996; Perepu, 2007). There are an abundance of definitions of knowledge management, but overall it is about ensuring that knowledge, experience and skills dispersed among individuals throughout the organization are made available beyond these individuals. It is about “providing point of need knowledge” (Aaron, 2009: 35); “capturing and providing access to . . . collective experience” (Ofek & Sarvary, 2001: 1442) or “capturing, codifying, and transferring knowledge across the organization in order to create business value or achieve competitive advantages” (Deng, 2008: 175).

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