chapter  10
19 Pages

Spreading the message: management consultants and the shaping of economic geographies in time and space

ByJOHN R. BRYSON

Whydocompanieschange?Howdonew economicgeographiesevolve?Howarenew labour practices introduced into firms? How is knowledge transferred between companies as well as countries? Allof thesearekey questions for economicgeography and all involve understanding the relationship between knowledge, space and economy. At the centre of this set of relationships are the actions of people, as it is through social relationships that knowledge flows between and within spaces and places. The geography of economic activity is the consequence of the interaction of relationalactivities operating in time andspace.Economies canthus beconceptualised as relative, relational, temporal and spatial. It is difficult to keep track of the mutually constituted nature of economic activity and it is comparatively easy to agree with Doreen Massey that this way ofconceptualising time-space ‘can make your head hurt’ (Massey 1999: 262). The geography of economic organisation is the result of a set of social relationshipswhich have evolved over time and which have produced particular types of production systems. Thisoperates at the level of the individual organisation as well as production system. There are two important points to consider. First, central to this process are the activities of key individuals, managers and consultants as well as a seriesoftexts,forexamplenewspapers,thebusinesspressand manualsof bestpractice produced by professional associations. Second, economic change requires exposure to flows of knowledge either in the form of the direct or indirect movement of ideas between companies and places or through knowledge situated in manufactured items that out compete existing products. A good example of this form of knowledge wasthe introduction of the Dyson vacuum cleanerthat out competed existing cleaners through technological innovation inspired by James Dyson’s decision to rethink the conventional cleaner.