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Title: Innovation in a small knowledge-intensive consultancy : a practice perspective
Author: Winsor, Blair Watts
ISNI:       0000 0004 2696 8490
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2010
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This research has explored in-depth how innovation and adaptation occur in a small knowledge-intensive consultancy. Scholars have not ignored these changes in consultancies but have tended to examine large consultancies. Innovation and adaptation in small consultancies is also important because these firms have a substantial economic impact and are exemplars of innovative knowledge-intensive firms. Given the differences between large and small firms it seems likely that the occurrence of innovation and adaptation will be different in small firms. Moreover, much of the scholarship concentrates on the development of entirely new consulting services, while ignoring incremental changes to existing services or processes. This work by looking at small firms and a range of changes will contribute to filling these gaps in the scholarship. This research followed five projects in a consultancy, First, adopting a practice-based perspective and methods. First is a communication consultancy employing approximately 100 people in five offices worldwide. The consultancy’s clients are predominantly large oil and gas firms. First was chosen for this research because it fitted the criteria of a small knowledge-intensive firm and, importantly, its management allowed virtually unrestricted access within the firm’s Aberdeen office and also, in three of the five projects, to the client. The data was collected using multiple methods. Project teams were observed over 37 days during a 19-month period, including non-participant observation of five client consultant meetings. Nearly 50 interviews were conducted. In addition, there was full access to project and firm documentation over the research period. This research makes contributions to theory and methodology. The main contribution to theory is that time pressures acting as a control and management mechanism can stimulate adaptations and preclude innovations. This is contradictory to most theory related to innovation, which suggests that control and management stifles change. Unravelling the dual effects of time enabled me to determine that, in essence, project teams in First had a ‘bounded autonomy’ to make adaptations but not innovations. This is termed ‘adaptation to schedule’. In brief, my work strongly suggests that problems, usually related to time will stimulate adaptations but only in certain circumstances. These are adaptations to ensure a project schedule, in the face of problems, is met and this will only occur when project teams have autonomy within stipulated timeframes. However, and this is important, the results of adaptation to schedule will usually be restricted to new or improved processes. This is a significant contribution since time, as a control mechanism in consultancies, has received very little attention from scholars. My work contributes to methodology by showing that a practice-based examination of projects in a small knowledge-intensive consultancy can substantially lessen or unravel the ambiguity in knowledge-intensive work. Recently practice-based perspectives, as a means for understanding organisational phenomena, have received more attention. This work confirms the usefulness of the perspective and methods in this context.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HD Industries. Land use. Labor