Service Innovation in (ECO)System View. Towards a Circular Path of Co-Innovation

Abstract

Over the last decades, the diffusion of service-based economy has led to the redefinition of the traditional meaning of goods and services, of user’s role in service provision and of the “old” closed business models. In this complex scenario, characterized by a mounting hyper competition, customers have more and more information on products and businesses conduct. Consequently, they have turned into real co-creators actively involved in service production and delivery and – for this reason – they have also become more and more demanding. On the other hand, organizations should adopt open and flexible layouts in order to collaborate with users, intended as a key driver for fostering that knowledge exchange able to boost competitiveness. This process of resource sharing, which can provide businesses with suggestions and new knowledge on products and services improvement, is currently almost totally ICTs-enabled. Thus, the spread of digital technologies has boosted actor’s participation in service delivery by reducing time, costs and information asymmetry and offering opportunities for innovating together with users getting from relevant stakeholders a unique knowledge. Therefore, in the light of the leading role that ICTs have played as the “glue” of service exchanges, the aim of the work is to (re)define service innovation adopting an ecosystemsbased mind-set intended as an all-encompassing philosophy, which transcends markets, exchanges and the relationship between goods and services as well as users and providers. To achieve this goal and to explore a complex construct such as service innovation, a multi-dimensional approach is used for describing: 1) the definition and main dimensions of service innovation; 2) the main drivers for service innovation; 3) the innovation business models typical of service-era. After a brief description of the shift from a general definition of innovation to the emergence of service innovation, Chapter 1 offers a review on service innovation, conducted according to the three approaches that have been reported in the literature: assimilation, demarcation, synthesis. The transition from the first to the second approach lies on the fading away of the strict separation existing between product and service innovation, which has led to conceive service innovation as an autonomous construct. The last perspective, the synthesis, has been conceptualized as a general orientation that permeates the whole work and that is related to the call for the adoption of a new integrated perspective on service and service innovation. In line with the shifting from assimilation to synthesis, the Chapter 2 describes the evolution from a good-dominant to a service-dominant logic. Thus, among the proposed different service theories, Service Science and S-D logic are depicted as the most adequate frameworks for rereading service in digital service era. The main assumptions and evolutions that the two theories have had over time lead to the development of two organizational layouts aimed at addressing contemporary businesses to challenge complexity: service systems and service ecosystems. These two frameworks seem to be complying with a general system thinking that can be considered as an underlying philosophy that encloses S-D logic and SS. This perspective proposes a meta-level able to better explore the relationships between and among micro-, meso- and macro-context. More in depth – combining the main assumptions of S-D logic with systems thinking – service ecosystems represent the mind-set of the entire work. Based on this meta-approach aimed at defining service innovation across the three ecosystems’ levels (micro-, meso- and macro), the main goals of the study are formulated. The remaining chapters are devoted to the analysis of each step. Firstly, at the micro-level – in line with the overcoming of products supremacy over services – the Chapter 3 analyses how service innovation arises as a general philosophy, which transcend product and service exchanges. In particular, rereading the concept of service innovation in the light of digital era, the chapter focuses on the identification of platforms as essential ICTs tools for fostering innovation. Thus, the investigation stresses the definitions, architecture and dimensions of platforms, putting a great emphasis on their new conceptualization, based on the shifting from considering them simple technological tools to real intermediaries, which per se do not produce innovation, but are drivers that actors use to integrate resources. Specifically, the emphasis is on the role of service platforms in fostering actor’s engagement. Moreover, the work has led also to hypothesize the existence of a bidirectional relationship between service platforms and institutions, which is able to enhance resource integration, value co-creation and innovation. The Chapter 4 (meso-level) investigates the business models suitable for fostering service innovation. In line with the research on service and on service innovation, the open innovation models proposed over the time can be divided into three perspectives:1) technology-driven (new product development); 2) customers-driven; and 3) service-driven (new service development and open service innovation). The end point is open service innovation in networks, in which the attainment of innovative practices stems from interactive, relational and social dimensions. This all-encompassing and reticular conception of innovation paves the way for the proposition, in the concluding section, of an ecosystems-based view aimed at analysing the strategic management of innovation from the early stages of value co-creation process in order to detect whether the use of ICTs can be strategically integrated with the other elements of service ecosystems. In the last Chapter, the definition of service innovation is proposed. The concept is intended as a circular resource integrating process of new knowledge creation, which transcend all stages of the co-delivery and which culminates in products, processes innovation or in the creation of new service modalities and practices. In particular, it can be revealed that not all the steps leading to service innovation are explored in extant service research. Previous studies did not adequately stress the circularity of co-innovation process, which leads to knowledge renewal through institutionalization and technology. Therefore, the new knowledge rising from the dynamic resource integration is re-implemented as the input of the following innovation cycles and constantly regenerated. In order to better describe the circularity of the abovementioned process, three drivers of co-innovation are identified: 1) collaborative decision-making; 2) pervasive use of technology; and 3) ICTs and fit mechanisms to enhance actor’s alignment. Collaborative decision-making, technology (platforms) and fit strategies all-encompass the entire co-innovation cycle, being enablers (before), intensifiers (during) and producers (after) of service innovation. The three dimensions are singularly described and, then, integrated in an innovation pathway, explored in all its phases; thus, a fundamental last step is introduced to address toward the emergence of creativity. Starting from an (eco)system-based view, the work rereads service innovation according to an original meta-perspective. This model overcomes the mere description of relational and interactive levels of service exchanges (the focus of S-D logic) to embrace a broad perspective. However, the proposed transcending systems vision calls for an in-depth exploration of the entire innovation cycle. According to this strategic view on service innovation, its enablers and outcomes can be simultaneously explored through the investigation of the pivot of the entire process, that is resource integration. The co-innovation cycle needs to be managed throughout: 1) all the stages of the co-delivery; 2) all the steps of innovation, from ideas generation and diffusion to co-development; and 3) all the different kinds of innovation generated (from processes innovation to the creation of new service modalities and practices). The first step for the introduction of a transcending framework of service innovation management through ecosystems-based models can address future empirical research to the specific investigation of the antecedents and consequences of innovation. Moreover, decision-making can be addressed to a better management of each innovation stage, through the continuous and emerging identification and harmonization of co-creation and engagement patterns. Therefore, service innovation stands out as a philosophy, a managerial orientation to the constant production and reproduction of new knowledge based on a proactive mindset for optimizing, spreading and renewing over time innovation

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