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Journal of Management Studies 50:2 March 2013 doi: 10.1111/joms.12008

Commodifying the Commodifiers: The Impact of Procurement on Management Knowledge

Joe O’Mahoney, Stefan Heusinkveld and Christopher Wright
Cardiff University; VU University, Amsterdam; University of Sydney
ABSTRACT Current conceptualizations of the commodification of management knowledge prioritize the agency of knowledge producers, such as consultancies, but downplay the role of other actors such as intermediaries. Using a qualitative multi-method study of the role of procurement in sourcing consultancy knowledge, we demonstrate how intermediaries also commodify management knowledge, thereby limiting the exchange value of that knowledge. Through our analysis we develop a more sophisticated model of the processes and consequences of knowledge commodification. This model clarifies and extends prior research by highlighting the role of commensuration, comparison and valuation, as well as the related tactics that consultants and client managers use to resist procurement’s attempts to commodify management knowledge.

Keywords: commodification, consumers, intermediaries, management consultancies, management knowledge, procurement

INTRODUCTION The growth of the management knowledge industry over the last 50 years has resulted in increased research attention paid to the activities and impact of knowledge producers such as business schools, management gurus, publishers, and consultancies (see, e.g. Abrahamson, 1996; Clark and Salaman, 1998; Heusinkveld and Benders, 2002, 2005; Huczynski, 1993; Suddaby and Greenwood, 2001; Werr and Stjernberg, 2003). Many of these studies have shown how the commodification of management knowledge assists these actors in improving sales (Abrahamson, 1996; Fincham, 1995), enabling effective business models (Benders and van Veen, 2001; Heusinkveld and...

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