Despite their business relevance, creative professional service firms are under-researched, in particular with regard to how they compete for work. Competing for work is key to survival, but also extremely challenging due to the complexity of the services offered. In this paper we use a paradox framework to investigate the opposing demands that creative professional service firms experience when competing for work. Based on a set of semi-structured interviews in the context of architectural competitions, we show that creative professional service firms face two interwoven paradoxes which relate to the strategic intent (why to compete) and the design intent (what to propose) of client propositions. We describe these paradoxes and explain how organizations manage and cope with them through both synthesis and separation management approaches. Contributions of this study can be found in theorizing paradoxes of competing for work from the professional service provider's perspective, and in fostering the firms’ paradoxical mind-set, which facilitates the acceptance and resolution of complexity and different competing demands.
- Architectural competitions
- Creative professional service firms
- Design proposal
- Management approaches
- Strategic goals