Sustaining knowledge creation within knowledge intensive firms
This thesis is concerned with understanding the way in which knowledge creation was sustained over time within a particular type of knowledge intensive firm referred to as an expert consultancy. Expert consultancies are differentiated from generalist management consultancies in terms of their knowledge intensity i.e. the high levels of expertise of the workforce and their focus on the development of highly customised creative and innovative solutions rather than on the diffusion and implementation of pre-packaged 'best practice' solutions. Two longitudinal case studies were conducted in expert consultancies and a critical interpretative approach, characteristic of the constructivist paradigm was adopted for their analysis. Processes of knowledge creation are intrinsically complex and unpredictable. The leaders of such finns then are perpetually seeking ways to manage the fundamental tensions that exist between autonomy and control and efficiency and uncertainty. A retrospective historical analysis was developed of the way in which knowledge creation occurred and the organisational conditions that served to shape the process over time within both firms. The organisational conditions that were considered included not only structural aspects of the firm but also cultural and social conditions. Any changes that had occurred over time with regard to the way in which knowledge creation occurred were considered in relation to the organisational conditions that may have stimulated such changes in order to develop this analysis. The research found that a number of distinctive structural conditions contributed to sustaining processes of knowledge creation over time, including profit satisficing behaviour, an absence of professional management, and a resource rich environment. Critically, a strong yet ambiguous culture was found to be important for sustaining processes of knowledge creation. Organisational ambiguity promoted quasi-normative control, regulating individuals' dual identities as both 'consultant' and 'expert'. Quasi-normative control promoted both creative and selfdisciplining behaviour such that processes of knowledge creation occurred in ways that were ultimately efficient for the finn. These findings represent a new contribution to knowledge with regards to organisational culture and the management of knowledge workers and will hopefully stimulate further research in this area.