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Between innovation and legitimation : boundaries and knowledge flow in management consultancy.

Sturdy, A. and Clark, T. and Fincham, R. and Handley, K. (2009) 'Between innovation and legitimation : boundaries and knowledge flow in management consultancy.', Organization., 16 (5). pp. 627-653.


Management consultancy is seen by many as a key agent in the adoption of new management ideas and practices in organizations. Two contrasting views are dominant—consultants as innovators, bringing new knowledge to their clients or as legitimating client knowledge. Those few studies which examine directly the flow of knowledge through consultancy in projects with clients favour the innovator view and highlight the important analytical and practical value of boundaries— consultants as both knowledge and organizational outsiders. Likewise, in the legitimator view, the consultants’ role is seen in terms of the primacy of the organizational boundary. By drawing on a wider social science literature on boundaries and studies of inter-organizational knowledge flow and management consultancy more generally, this polarity is seen as problematic, especially at the level of the consulting project. An alternative framework of boundary relations is developed and presented which incorporates their multiplicity, dynamism and situational specificity. This points to a greater complexity and variability in knowledge flow and its potential than is currently recognized. This is significant not only in terms of our understanding of management consultancy and inter-organizational knowledge dynamics and boundaries, but of a critical understanding of the role of management consultancy more generally.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Boundaries, Innovation, Knowledge, Legitimation, Management consultancy.
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Publisher statement:The final definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal Organization 16/5 2009 © SAGE Publications Ltd by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Organization page: on SAGE Journals Online:
Record Created:22 Jun 2011 10:20
Last Modified:05 Aug 2011 15:50

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