Aligning consultants' routines and organizational identity to foster exploration and exploitation

Carli, Giacomo; Tagliaventi, Maria Rita and Grandi, Alessandro (2015). Aligning consultants' routines and organizational identity to foster exploration and exploitation. In: Academy of Management Proceedings, Academy of Management, 2015(1).



Although hard to be preserved, a balance between exploration and exploitation becomes pivotal for competing in changing environments. As some theoretical speculations suggest, consultants as ‘innovators’, given their cognitive distance, favor the development of exploration, and, consultants as ‘legitimators’, having lower cognitive distance, stimulate exploitation. We investigate how organizations can pursue exploration and exploitation leveraging their relation with consultants. In our three cases studies, companies ensuing exploration and exploitation are investigated with semi-structured interviews and content analysis. Through a three-step coding of interviews and documents, we built a grounded model which explains how new routines from consultants become the object of a process of alignment in companies. We found that managers and employees assess the alignment of new routines with what their organization is. Surprisingly, what is affected by the introduction of new routines is organizational identity: while some existing attributes of identity are reinforced through legitimation, others are introduced through innovation. We contribute to the understanding of the role of external knowledge in the development of exploration and exploitation capabilities in consulting projects showing how capabilities can originate from an alignment process of new routines with very intimate attributes of organizational identity, which routines from consultants are attained to match.

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