Services innovation

Today, the University of Cambridge and IBM released a new white paper Succeeding through Service Innovation. The report is based upon the 2007 Cambridge Service Science, Management and Engineering Symposium.
The report is part of an ongoing process to define and develop a new area called “services science.” The report notes that:

Thanks to the application of science, management and engineering to the improvement of agriculture and manufacturing, remarkable products, from disease resistant crops to automobiles and personal computers, can be produced flexibly and efficiently and are widely available. However, as product complexity and diversity increase, it can take more time and consume more resources to search for, obtain, install, maintain, upgrade and dispose of products than production itself. This offers great opportunities for service innovation – including both incremental improvements and radical changes to service systems.
. . .
The need for science, management and engineering in relation to agricultural and manufactured products has not gone away. They are an integral part of service innovation and have a strong impact on the way that products behave and perform in larger service systems. For example, cutting-edge technologies such as biotechnology and nanotechnology can be applied to enhance consumer experience. But as the scope of innovation continues to move beyond products, we must prepare ourselves with skills and knowledge required for service innovation.

The report has a number of recommendations for moving the agenda forward — mostly having to do with fostering interdisciplinary activities and greater research and thinking about “services sciences”:

• Universities should offer courses in the emerging field of Service Science, Management and Engineering (SSME) – teaching graduates to become “adaptive innovators”, capable of working entrepreneurially across traditional boundaries.
• Researchers should embrace an interdisciplinary approach to address business and societal ‘grand challenges’.
• Governments should fund SSME education and research and collaborate with industry and academia to develop service innovation roadmaps.
• Businesses should establish employment policies and career paths that encourage ‘adaptive innovators’ and provide funding and support for service research and education.

I welcome this new trend — especially the extent to which it looks at the broad range of innovation beyond just new technologies. Almost by definition innovation in the services would require organizational and business process changes.
I do worry a little bit about continuing the use of the nomenclature of “services” versus “manufacturing”. I think these lines are blurring. Likewise, not all “services” are the same. As I discussed in an earlier posting, We need to be able to differentiate between the difference between the celebrity chef and the minimum wage fast food workers as well as between the person who designs a bridge and the person who builds it. And what about between composing a symphony and playing a symphony? Engineering a car and building a car?
Services sciences and services innovation may be the opening to explore these deeper issues. But we need to invent a new language to talk about the issues. “Services” and “manufacturing” just don’t suffice any more.

2 thoughts on “Services innovation”

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