An article on Performative Ties from Knowledge@Wharton (requires free membership) describes how professional services companies use informal transfer methods to leverage their knowledge. In a study conducted by Prof. Sheen Levine, it was found that:
Performative ties, as described in this article, seem to be similar to the weak ties that could help you get a job much easier than strong, familial ties can. The research on performative ties for knowledge-sharing inside corporations shows that loose peer-to-peer networks are effective ways to transfer implicit knowledge.
I think that those same performative ties exist outside these professional services companies, especially amongst bloggers. Reading or commenting on a blog creates a weak tie that can be used to ask a more pointed question via e-mail. I have done this on a several occasions, and have received similar requests. The responses are always quick and candid.
According to Levine, “What they [professional services firms] do well, is move knowledge around effectively, taking the company’s entire accumulated know-how and gathering it quickly to a single point to create a solution for a client.” If that is their prime competitive advantage then looser groups of independent consultants, who share through their blogs, may be just as effective at providing professional services as these more structured companies that currently rule the market. That’s positive news for me and my associates 🙂