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Managing technical professionals is difficult inside the firm; it takes a whole new skill set to manage technical professionals across firm boundaries, in the relational network across the supply chain. Yet increasingly, that's where sharp new product ideas, improvements in process, innovation and strategic advantage reside. We first review traditional thinking about managing technical professionals. Next, we define "relational networks", the increasingly interconnected collaborative, interfirm relationships in which much innovation takes place. This changed locus for innovation requires very different approaches to managing technical professionals, as we show. We close with recommendations for negotiating this new terrain.
Date of Publication: First Quarter 2013