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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe the main obstacles for innovation in Dutch
consultancy firms by focusing on the strength of informal knowledge sharing as an avenue for innovation.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper is the result of an empirical study based on in-depth
interviews with 29 consultants in the Netherlands.
Findings – The process of innovation can be problematic in consultancy firms. Consultants do simply
not find the time to innovate, since they are mainly rewarded for client related work (billable hours). In
order to innovate consultants need to share knowledge with clients, colleague consultants and their
experienced superiors. The knowledge sharing routes the consultant can use, as described in this
paper, are: codified, formal knowledge and informal knowledge sharing. This paper claims that the most
fruitful route to innovation is informal knowledge sharing.
Originality/value – The importance of informal knowledge is supported by Hofstede’s description of the
Dutch business culture as being feminine, cultivating low power distance (low degree of inequality) and
being highly individualistic. However, despite the support of the Dutch cultural setting, which supports
informal knowledge sharing, this research describes the lack of management support in the innovation
process as one of the main barriers to innovation.
Keywords Innovation, Management consultancy, Knowledge sharing
Paper type: Research paper