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 5: Innovating through clients

Natalia Nikolova


One of the main characteristics of professional services is the involvement of clients in the delivery of these services (Fosstenløkken, Løwendahl & Revang, 2003; Kubr, 1996; Larsen, 2001; Sharma, 1997) and in the creation of professional knowledge (Bettencourt, Ostrom, Brown & Roundtree, 2002; Engwall & Kipping, 2002; Fosstenløkken et al., 2003; Greenwood & Lachman, 1996; Hislop, 2002; Larsen, 2001; Mills and Morris, 1986; Sarvary, 1999). Therefore, many researchers argue that client–professional interactions are the “laboratory” for professional innovations (Gallouj & Weinstein, 1997: 546; also Davenport & Prusak, 2005; Fosstenløkken et al., 2003; Gadrey & Gallouj, 1998; Gann & Salter, 2000; Leiponen, 2006b; Morris & Empson, 1998), a view also confirmed by practitioners, as the following quote shows: “We have enormous opportunity to innovate in the consulting business because our clients represent an almost limitless laboratory” (a BCG consultant, cited in Stalk, 1999: 70). Therefore, this stream of research is based on the implicit assumption that professional services are inherently innovative because of their customized nature. Moreover, given that professional service innovations are the result of the customization of services, the process that leads to innovations in professional services is seen as a strategic, cooperative service delivery process (e.g. Alam, 2006; Alam & Perry, 2002; de Brentani, 1991, 2001; Gadrey & Gallouj, 1998; Gann & Salter, 2000; Mills, Chase & Margulies, 1983; Sundbo, 1998), in which the client is a willing participant, that is, a co-creator and co-producer of professional knowledge and ideas (Bettencourt et al., 2002; Fosstenløkken et al., 2003; Skjølsvik, Løwendahl, Kvålshaugen & Fosstenløkken, 2007). Accordingly, the relation between the client and the professionals is regarded as functional or contributory; clients’ motivation and ability to participate in the process and clients’ “strategic fi t” with the service provider are identifi ed as crucial factors contributing to the success of the innovation process (e.g. Alam, 2006; Lengnick-Hall, 1996). Therefore, this group of research takes a “functionalist” view of the innovation process in professional services and the role the client plays in it.

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