Boundary Spanning and Knowledge Exploration in a Professional Services Firm

Marie Louise Mors, Michelle Rogan, Susan E. Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Exploration for new knowledge is critical to the performance of professional service firms. The networks of partners in professional service firms are thought to be important for knowledge exploration because they typically span both the firm's internal and external boundaries aiding the flow of novel information to the firm. Yet, to date prior studies of individual-level boundary spanning have focused primarily on the benefits of boundary spanning and only recently begun to address the costs of building and maintaining boundary spanning ties. We add to this stream of research and propose that the knowledge exploration benefits of internal boundary spanning ties accrue more slowly than the costs, resulting in a curvilinear relationship with knowledge exploration. Moreover, we propose that the effects of internal and external boundary spanning ties on exploration are interdependent, because effective exploration requires not only the selection of ideas externally, but also their transmission internally. Our study of 1,449 ties of partners in a consulting firm supports these arguments providing a more nuanced view of boundary spanning ties for knowledge exploration in professional service firms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Professions and Organization
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)184-205
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Exploration
  • Boundary spanning
  • Knowledge domains
  • Innovation
  • Informal relationships
  • Networks
  • Professional services
  • Consulting firms

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