Conference Entrepreneurship in Professional Service Firms

We are proud to have hosted the this year’s Novak Druce Annual Conference on professional service firms on “Entrepreneurship in Professional Service Firms” from 8-10th July 2012 in Lüneburg. The international research community represented by about 25 participants shares the concern that management and organization theory does not really acknowledge the particular properties of PSF organizations and the work of professionals. Hence, the peculiarities of PSF have to be developed further and contrasted with public or corporate organizations. The question of entrepreneurship and innovation is convenient in order to become aware of the nature of professional organizations. Whereas the virtue of corporate entrepreneurship can hardly be challenged as innovative products and services in most cases improve consumers’ satisfaction, professional services rather feature high ethical norms, standardization, stability and predictability. We know what may happen if banks exaggerate with the innovation of financial products or if accounting firms expand their services to the manipulation of balance sheets. There is a conflict if lawyers of a law firm – traditionally committed to the logic of their profession to represent nothing but law and right – are turning towards a business logic acquiring cases and targeting an economic benefit for his clients.
As the university is a prototype of a “professional bureaucracy” (Mintzberg), the claims for the Entrepreuneurial University have to be limited to its boundaries. Whilst the individual and collective process of knowledge creation is highly creative and innovative, scholars develop standards of methodology, ethics and recognition. These standards reflecting a professional logic seem to be challenged, if universities are demanded to engage in commodification of knowledge. The rise of “student consumerism” (Riesman) – the perception of students as clients contains the danger of turning education into a commodity and undermining the educational mission.

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