Contextualizing Organizational Imprinting. The Case of Spanish Engineering Consulting firms

Drawing on organizational imprinting theory and business-history methods, this article is an attempt to identify what determines an organizational effective response to changes in the business context. Following an analytical structured narrative approach, we look specifically at a knowledge-based industry, such as engineering consulting, in a particular turbulent time for the sector, the decades that followed World War II. The exposure to such an environment provoked three major changes that persisted afterwards: new organizational structures, new services and changes at operational level. To what extent firms were permeable to changes in the environment and were able to successfully adapt their strategy and structure accordingly depended on several factors, as our research preliminary concludes, including access to the world leading consulting firms’ knowledge (via strategic alliances, among other), their ability to internalize such a knowledge, corporate entrepreneurial capabilities and the founder’s vision and entrepreneurial spirit. While research on organizational imprinting has usually focused on companies´ early years, the role of the founder and, to a lesser extent, firms` first steps to go abroad (Stinchcombe, 1965; Hannan et al., 1996; Marquis and Tilcsik, 2013, García Canal et al. 2018) our study highlights the influence of other sensitive periods in organizations, such as economic openness in a formerly protected market, and the first partnerships with leading international contractors.