Business services markets are very competitive and a key challenge for knowledge-intensive business service (KIBS) firms is delivering effective solutions for business customers. As solution providers, KIBS firms need to invest competencies that supports their capacity to solve customers' problems. We examine how KIBS firms address this challenge by investigating how solution-provision competence (SPC), as a firm-level competence, contributes to the delivery of effective solutions, and how and when KIBS firms leverage SPC to transform knowledge gained from various search paths into effective solutions for customers. The results show that distal search enriches knowledge diversity, which helps foster solution-provision competence but only up to a point, after which the relationship turns negative, with distal search showing a diminishing effect on solution-provision competence. In addressing the diminishing returns of distal search to solution-provision competence, we show that higher levels of proximal search and strategic flexibility reverse the diminishing effect of high levels of distal search on solution-provision competence; however, employee collaboration did not help counter the diminishing returns (e.g., marginal benefits). Finally, we demonstrate that solution-provision competence helps KIBS firms offer effective solutions tailored to business customers' specific needs.
- Employee collaboration
- Knowledge search
- Knowledge-intensive business services
- Solution competence
- Strategic flexibility