And the journey continues…

“Nothing is permanent but change” — Greek Philosopher Heraclitus

Less than a year ago, our team decided to start describing our journey towards the top of the service research field through this blog. Back then our team had been recently established as a part of organizational change at VTT during spring 2012. The team was built on various types of complementary competences related to digital service research. We were filled with enthusiasm and dedication to make the difference and aim to the top of science world. Although we progressed tremendously during our first year and had excellent scientific and business results, there was yet another organisational change coming, which will end the story of this particular team by the end of this year.

Now don’t get me wrong, even though the story of our team will end, most of our team members will continue the odyssey to the top of service research. More importantly, the new organizational structure will bring many of us to the core of VTT’s Service Research Network, which is a cross-disciplinary intra-organisational network of service researchers at VTT. The network includes a large number of highly talented and recognized service research professionals and its scientific work is steered by one of the world’s most highly-reputed service innovation researchers, Professor Marja Toivonen. As a result, the blog will also be transformed to tell the story of all the members of the VTT’s Service Research Network and their efforts on the journey towards world-class excellence and outstanding achievements in in the field of service research.

Personally I have been highly impressed about the energy and dedication that our team members have had on defining and taking our joint journey towards excellence in service research. I’ve been privileged to be part of the first part of our odyssey, and I’m delighted that as we set sail for the second part of the journey we will have many new and enthusiastic service researchers on board. I still don’t know where our shared odyssey will finally take us, but I’m sure that the pursuit of excellence in service research will take each of us to the right direction no matter where our personal paths will lead us.

On behalf of the whole team, team leader Arto

”Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Greek Philosopher Aristotle

Naples Forum – Emerging nature of value

“Service has arrived in a new and better shape, more prepared to deal with the contemporary economy. Still this is a starting point: Service deserves more attention on our research agenda!”  (clip of Reasoning for Naples Forum on Service)

We had a great opportunity take part to the third Naples Forum on Service, which is conference focusing on three research pillars: service-dominant logic, service science and network and systems theory. The conference was located in beautiful island of Ischia in close distance from city of Naples in Italy. In addition to thrilling views, sunny sky and bright blue oceans, conference offered us many research related experiences and insights, which have notable future value potential. Instead of explaining what we found valuable for us during the conference, in the following we debate how and when value of conferences can be actualized.

Conference as a platform for co-creating value

When sitting on an airplane on my way back to home from the conference I started to think about the value of Naples forum for me and for VTT. The probable reason for my thoughts was that this question is often asked after conference (to justify the made investment). On the other hand, another apparent reason was that during the conference we had many interesting presentations and informal discussions about the concept of value and value co-creation. After short puzzling, I realized that this type of conference does not create value per se, but enables opportunities for value co-creation among the participants. Thereby, conference should be seen as a platform for value co-creation, which enables researchers all over the world to present and discuss their ideas, take ideas to next level by challenging them, plant seeds for new ideas, co-operation and joint projects, create new relationships to other academics or even build life-long friendship to other like-minded people.

But how is my subjective value experience in the end created? When going through many unforgettable experiences from the conference I realized that my subjective value during the conference emerged through various types of incidents that I had experienced (e.g. inspiring presentations, feedback to my work, gala dinner with amazing people). However, because value is context specific, the value of these incidents change in time depending, for example, on where I will be, what will I do, and how I can complement these experiences with other things. Therefore, importance of certain incident at the conference may seem today irrelevant (low value), but future may reveal this incident highly valuable.

Furthermore, conference presented us numerous opportunities to co-create value in the future. Firstly, the conference is so full of interesting presentations and discussions, that you need some time on your own to process these ideas and insights. In addition, the value of the conference may be revealed later on when insights from the conference are combined with insights from other sources (e.g. resulting in to a finding of original idea for PhD. thesis). Secondly, I would argue that the most of the value for me and especially for the VTT will be actualized after the conference through realizing numerous opportunities that this type of collaboration enables (e.g research exchange, joint projects).  Thereby, if someone would ask what was the value of Naples Forum, I would explain that it was very educative, inspiring, fun, warm and warm-hearted conference, but in order to understand full value of conference we will have to see what the future reveals.

What is Naples Forum on Service?

The Naples Forum on Service is mostly academic conference, which built around three scientific pilars which are service-dominant logic, networks & systems theory and service science. First Naples Forum was organised in 2009 at the small island of Capri. The idea of the conference was to overcame geographical constrains and bring researchers interested in service research together to share ideas and discuss informally with each other. This year Naples Forum was organised for the third time, and the forum is nowadays recognized as a conference where most influential service academics are present, but at the same time the atmosphere has remained very open and relaxed. Next Naples forum is scheduled to be organised in 2015.


Quest for service science

During the last 60 years we have been witnessing stunning growth of what the traditional economists refer to as the service sector. Service activities account for about 70-80 percent of all economic activity in most advanced industrial economies. Moreover, many service activities are hidden from the economic statistics, since those often describe only the services exchanged between economic actors. Thereby, when imagining all of those hidden service activities within our society (e.g. service activities within organisations or between individual people), you may begin to understand the fundamental role of service as a means of exchange and its massive significance to our well-being, jobs, society and economic growth.

Although service activities are increasingly understood as a basis for modern society, scientific understanding has been lacking holistic perspective into service phenomenon [1]. Main reason for this is the heavily siloed research by different academic disciplines that have viewed the service phenomenon from different – sometimes even conflicting – perspectives. To overcome this challenge, Chesbrough and Spohrer outlined a research manifesto for service science in 2006, where they call academics to unite their efforts to create a more holistic understanding about service phenomenon. They also vision that this multi-disciplinary effort could eventually become new transdisciplinary academic area called service science. The following figure illustrates some academic disciplines that have already contributed to the emergence of service science [2]. Nevertheless, many other scientific disciplines (such as psychology and law) may have important contribution to the future development of this area.

Service science
Figure 1. Examples of academic disciplines that have had important contribution to the emergence of service science.

The main objective of service science is to advance ability to design, improve and scale service systems and to create service innovations [3]. Based on its multi-disciplinary nature, service science aims to achieve these objectives by combining organization and human understanding with technological and business understanding. Our quest for service science relies heavily on VTT’s technological expertise that is acknowledged and well-known throughout the world. Yet our team especially aims to integrate these different perspectives (human, organization, technology and business) by studying value co-creation phenomenon within service systems. It means that we have to understand, for example:

  • how individual customer experiences service,
  • how organizations co-create value with their customers and partners,
  • how technologies are utilized to improve and scale service systems, and
  • how profitable business can be created and sustained within complex service networks and ecosystems.

Even though this kind of broad understanding is more and more needed in order to understand the increasing complexity of service systems, we also need deep understanding that helps to solve specific problems. Therefore, the success of our journey to service science is dependent of our ability to co-operate with people who have deeper knowledge of specific disciplines and industries (especially VTT’s top-level experts in technology and engineering) and to inspire them to pursue towards the same direction with us in their own journeys.


[1] Chesbrough, H. & Spohrer, J. (2006) A Research Manifesto for Services Science. Communications of the ACM, 49(7), pp.33-40.
[2] Spohrer, J. & Maglio, P. (2008) The Emergence of Service Science: Toward Systematic Service Innovations to Accelerate Co-Creation of Value, International Journal of Production and Operations Management, 17(3), pp. 238-246.
[3] Maglio, P. & Spohrer, J. (2008) Fundamentals of service science. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 36(1), pp.18-20.

Service Science Odyssey – Why and by whom?

This is the first blog entry on our odyssey to the world of service research. Our journey’s goal is to become renowned throughout the world for our research. Even though our vision is high above in the skies, we start our journey by acknowledging that we are still far away from the top and admitting that the path we have chosen is still very foggy. That is the reason why we call this an odyssey. This blog will share our experiences on the odyssey and we try to describe our journey realistically. However, before continuing it is good to look back at the starting point and the reasoning behind this goal.

In 2011, ICT sector in Finland was going through some dramatic changes, and it was realized in VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland that also the ICT research has to adapt to the changes in business environment. At the same time service research had gained stronger foothold from VTT’s research portfolio and service-oriented thinking had started to spread to the business world. VTT saw this development as an opportunity and decided that there is a need to reorganize research in ICT cluster. By the end of June 2012 a new knowledge center focusing on digital service research was born. Our team is part of this new knowledge center.

Teams within the new knowledge center were organized in a fast phase, and our team was formed on the competencies from four different previous teams. We had researchers who had focused on a wide range of topics outside service and business research. Hence, in our new team we have a good mix of people representing various disciplines and studying various phenomena in the ICT context. As a joint effort, we managed to identify two common research areas related to digital services: 1) business effects and transformation, and 2) customer value and understanding. Hence, the new team was named as value-driven service business, and our journey was ready to start.

The key driver on our journey is that we are dedicated towards becoming a top research team, and our versatile experiences and backgrounds provide excellent starting points for that. We believe that multidisciplinary background (e.g. marketing, economics, information processing, information networks, software and industrial engineering, information security and strategic management) of our team members is our biggest strength which helps us to find our spot for contribution in the field of service science. At the same time we understand that our biggest strength is one of the biggest challenges on the journey, since multidisciplinarity makes it much more difficult to find common ground for the research. However, we are motivated, dedicated and ready to work hard on the journey. Above all, we are passionate to find new ways how research can make world better place.

In forthcoming posts we will present you insights into our journey. Since we don’t yet have a clear plan where our journey is taking us, we don’t know what future posts will cover. However, we promise that this blog will:

  • shed light to latest research topics of the field (hopefully in easy to read format), and
  • describe our team’s way of working towards the top position in the scientific field.

Some of the posts will be more like personal opinions, whereas others describe our teams joint effort and challenges. We also aim to introduce you interesting blog posts from other professionals at VTT who are researching similar or complementary topics.

Embark on this journey with us and enjoy!