2009/07/04 Prospectus: Conversations on an Emerging Science of Service Systems

(version 20090704, prospectus, prepared by David Ing)

Abstract

This outline describes a series of conversations planned in 2009-2010 to develop the emerging science of service systems, based on foundations in systems science.  The schedule and venues for meetings are coordinated with international events where a quorum of core researchers are likely to attend.  Emphasis is placed on the evolution of electronic artifacts (e.g. sketches and diagrams) that track the collective learning of the group, and reduce catch-up time if an individual is to miss a meeting.  The core researchers are Kyoichi Jim Kijima, Gary Metcalf, Allenna Leonard and Jennifer Wilby, facilitated by David Ing.

1. Introduction

This document outlines a series of conversations planned on the topic of an emerging science of service systems.  The founding members of this group are senior members from the systems science community, and have have participated in service science discussions dating back to 2007.

The sections that follow describe:

  • the opportunity for knowledge development in the science of services systems, based on the systems sciences;
  • participation by a core team, and casual contributors;
  • the form of artifacts, as electronically-shared sketches;
  • an initial set of systems science content potentially relevant to the emerging science of service systems; and
  • progress on knowledge development, and a proposed schedule of meetings.

The trail of artifacts produced during these activities is not only a common ground for the core group, but also an entry point for novices to this knowledge domain.  The "organizational memory" of progress will be retained by the core researchers, who may individually choose to reproduce or excerpt portions in personal publications.

2. Opportunity: The science of service systems, while in its infancy, can benefit by prior knowledge in the systems sciences

A science of service systems is in the early stages of definition.  A service system has been defined by IfM and IBM (2008):

What is a service system?
A service system can be defined as a dynamic configuration of resources (people, technology, organisations and shared information) that creates and delivers value between the provider and the customer through service. In many cases, a service system is a complex system in that configurations of resources interact in a non-linear way. Primary interactions take place at the interface between the provider and the customer. However, with the advent of ICT, customer-to-customer and supplier-to-supplier interactions have also become prevalent. These complex interactions create a system whose behaviour is difficult to explain and predict. [p. 6]

Service systems play a large part in the 21st century society and economy.  The systems sciences have potential to lend some foundational knowledge to this new field, but the domain of inquiry is large

2.1 Service systems include both technical and human/social features, where the systems sciences already has a body of knowledge

Service systems can range from those most oriented towards personal/professional delivery (e.g. expert-based consulting) to machine-automated delivery (e.g. automated banking machines (ABMs)).  Within the systems sciences, the study of socio-technical systems dates back to Trist and Bamforth (1951) with the study of coal mining.  The rise of the personal computing, intelligent devices, the Internet and globalization presents new phenomena for investigation, extending prior research in the systems sciences.

2.2 In the early stages of a science, modes of inquiry can include induction, abduction and deduction

The methods of inductive, abductive and deductive reasoning date back to 1865 with Peirce.  Inductive and abductive methods may be more fruitful as science as service systems develops a foundation, after which deductive methods are appropriate (Ing 2008).

2.3 The diversity of perspectives on service systems is as broad as that in systems sciences

The ISSS was founded with an initial purpose of the society was "to encourage the development of theoretical systems which are applicable to more than one of the traditional departments of knowledge," with the following principal aims:

  • to investigate the isomorphy of concepts, laws, and models in various fields, and to help in useful transfers from one field to another;
  • to encourage the development of adequate theoretical models in areas which lack them;
  • to eliminate the duplication of theoretical efforts in different fields; and
  • to promote the unity of science through improving the communication among specialists.

These aims are equally valid for the emerging science of service systems, as well as it has been for the more mature systems sciences.

3. Participation:  A small core team can synthesize knowledge developed over a period of time, with comments and responses from extended contributors

The series of conversations intends to be an inclusive activity, with the recognition that smaller groups tend to move faster.  In this approach, participants have been categorized into core members and casual contributors.

3.1 Core members: Senior researchers from the ISSS have been participated in workshops on service science since 2007

The history of participation on the science of service systems has been demonstrated (and documented) in prior meetings, such as:

The core team is centered on researcher who have demonstrated their commitment to the systems sciences, as current or former officers of the ISSS.  

3.2 Casual contributors: Comments and criticisms by friendly colleagues can encourage vitality in the learning process

Researchers and students attending conferences in which the conversations are being conducted are welcomed to observe and contribute knowledge.  The schedule of meetings encourages the sweeping-in of new knowledge from participants whom may only incidentally attend a single event.

3.3 Collaborating on the development of shared learning can mix face-to-face interactions with a slow build-up of artifacts

The series of meetings on the emerging science of service system is modelled largely on the style described by Bela Banathy as generative conversation.  These types of conversations are conducted in relaxed settings, with some advanced preparation, and the production of artifacts (i.e. proceedings).

Electronic coordination of events can be managed on a Google Group with access limited to core members.  Periodic releases of progress from the core members may be released on a public website, such as ISSS World.

Casual contributors can access and subscribe to a Friendfeed Group on SSMED that tracks interesting blogs and news postings, and/or a Diigo Group on SSMED following complementary bookmarks.

Over time, a body of knowledge centered on the science of service systems will accumulate.

4. Form: Sketches of concepts, arguments, ontology and systems can be visually captured and shared electronically

Knowledge generation over a period of time can result in an accumulation of content that soon becomes intimidating.  In an effort to reduce mental overload while encouraging precision leading to rigour, some visual modeling/mapping tools will be used in the conversations.

4.1 A variety of software tools can be used to produce collaborative artifacts that reflect convergence on understanding as well as divergence in views

The wide range of visual mapping and modeling tools has been reduced to four representative methods, as described in Table 1.  

Table 1: Visual modeling and mapping tools
Technique Representation / notation Language Tools Benefits Downsides
Concept mapping Concepts as boxes, lines (or arrow) as relationships Unrestricted language, possibly idiosyncratic.  See Novak & Cañas (2008) e.g. CmapTools (IHMC) (for Windows, Mac and Linux) under a Public CmapTools license Easy to create, easy to understand Limited extensibility, as content reduction of large maps only through aggregation (i.e. no hidden elements)
Dialog mapping Deliberation through wicked problems (e.g. public policy) representing various viewpoints.  Dialog mapping (i.e. IBIS, Issue-Based Information System as question, answer, pro, con ) may be a precursor to Issue Mapping.  (See video on Youtube). Issue Mapping (deontic, instrumental, criterial, factual, conceptual, explanatory, contextual); or 
Toulmin practical arguments (claim, evidence, warrant, backing, rebuttal, qualifier)
e.g. Compendium Software (for Windows, Mac and Linux), under a Lesser GPL license v3 Acknowledges and represents multiple perspectives Convergence and/or consensus on content may be outside of the map (i.e. implicit in conversation)
Ontology mapping / modeling Categories of things and relations in a knowledge representation Ontology vocabulary with schemas expressed as triples in RDF (with XML) or OWL (with URIs for the web) e.g. CmapTools Ontology Editor (IHMC) (for Windows, Mac and Linux), or
Protege Ontology Editor (Stanford)
(for Windows, Mac or Linux) under a Mozilla Public License
If schemas have already been formalized, knowledge mapping becomes standardized (and potentially searchable) If a new schema is to be created, evolving the  vocabulary will require maintenance
System modeling Specification, analysis, design, verification and validation of systems and systems-of-systems, including hardware, software, information, processes, personnel and facilities. OMG SysML is a dialect of UML,  through the cooperation of OMG and INCOSE e.g. IBM Rational Rhapsody (for Windows or Linux), (available as no-charge to researchers through IBM Academic Initiatives) Standard endorsed by system engineering community, builds on experiences with UML, with 9 types of diagrams to learn SysML has been applied primarily in complex systems (i.e. technical aerospace and  defense) and embedded systems (e.g. mobile phones), not yet in social systems

Each of the four methods has its own benefits and downsides.  Software accessible by academics -- either as open source licensing, or through commerical academic licensing -- has been favoured.  No single tool supports all methods.  Some tools better support active near-real-time collaboration that is unlikely to be necessary for research conversations.

Transforming from more conceptual forms (e.g. concepts maps) to more formal forms (e.g. system modeling) increases the explicitness and rigour in our understanding.  Thisprogress (or lack thereof) may serve as a check-and-balance for the group.

5. Content: Understanding of service systems strengthened by systems science foundations

The initial content of the discussion -- open for reorientation or redirection, depending on the interest of the core members -- will be centered on three areas.

  • Which service systems?
  • Prior systems research?
  • Changed context for the 21st century?

The conversations will largely be driven by the diverse interests and relevance to current societal challenges, as perceived by the core members.

5.1 Which service systems? Focus rooted in the concrete will be generalized to the abstract

In an inductive mode, developing the science of service systems will be driven by areas perceived by the core members as most worthy of inquiry.  These could include:

  • education;
  • healthcare; 
  • cities; 
  • etc.

One view of societal challenges is the Global Innovation Outlook study conducted by IBM.  Opportunities to contribute towards increase social value will be negotiated amongst the core group.

5.2 Prior systems research? Mature science can contribute to the emerging science of service systems

Since the core researchers come from a variety of backgrounds, the conversations present an opportunity to learn or revisit existing bodies of research in the systems sciences, with a relevance to today's issues.  As a starter set, topics could include:

  • appreciative systems;
  • tacit interaction; 
  • subjectivist economics; and
  • reflexivity.

Individuals within the core team may be asked to lead reading discussions to put participants on a more equal footing.  The list will evolve as we jointly discover nuances and dead ends.

5.2.1 Appreciative systems

The emphasis on value in service systems raises questions as to how collective and individual behaviour should be modelled.  Research related to Sir Geoffrey Vickers could prove helpful, such as:

  • Vickers, Geoffrey. 1963. "Appreciative behaviour."
  • Checkland, Peter. 2005. "Webs of significance: the work of Geoffrey Vickers."
  • Williams, Garrath. 2005. "Geoffrey Vickers: philosopher of responsibility."
  • Winder, Nick. 2005. "Integrative research as appreciative system."
  • Blackmore, Christine. 2005. "Learning to appreciate learning systems for environmental decision making: a "work-in-progress" perspective."

5.2.2 Tacit interaction

Interactions within service systems -- or between systems of service systems -- bridge the objective and subjective.  Practical research originating from McKinsey & Co. appears to have compatibility with systems theory: 

  • Beardsley, Scott, Brad Johnson, and James Manyika. 2006. "Competitive advantage from better interactions.."
  • Johnson, Bradford C, James M Manyika, and Lareina A Yee. 2005. "The next revolution in interactions."
  • Butler, Patrick, Ted W Hall, Alistair M Hanna, Lenny Mendonca, Byron Auguste, James Manyika, and Anupam Sahay. 1997. "A revolution in interaction.."

5.2.3 Subjectivist economics

Service systems involve human exchanges.  Insight into tradeoffs made at the level of the individual may be developed from microeconomics compatible with systems science.  The legacy of research following Kenneth Boulding may provide avenues with promise: 

  • Boettke, Peter J, and David L. Prychitko. 1996. "Mr. Boulding and the Austrians: Boulding's contributions to subjectivist economics."
  • Boettke, Peter J. 2008. "Austrian School of Economics."
  • ---. 2007. Boettke on Austrian Economics. MP3 audio. Econtalk, 2007.

5.2.4 Reflexivity

As an alternative to implicit assumption of equilibrium, perspectives on business compatible with non-equilibrium models may lead the science of service systems in a different direction.  Readings on George Soros could reflect a practical relevance:

  • Umpleby, Stuart. 2007. "Reflexivity in social systems: the theories of George Soros."
  • Calandro Jr, Joseph. 2004. "Reflexivity, Business Cycles, and the New Economy."
  • Bryant, Christopher G. A. 2002. "George Soros's theory of reflexivity: a comparison with the theories of Giddens and Beck and a consideration of its practical value."
  • Cross, Rod, and Douglas Strachan. 1997. "On George Soros and Economic Analysis."
  • Beinhocker, Eric D. 2006. The origin of wealth: evolution, complexity, and the radical remaking of economics.

Understanding and reducing the above existing bodies of research with maps and/or models may serve as educational for a larger audience when made public.

5.3 Changed context in the 21st century? Challenges not engaged in earlier systems research

Over 40 years has passed since Emery (1967), where challenges for systems research over the next 30 years was considered.  Some societal contexts were foreseen, and others were not.  Some to be considered include ...

  • human longevity and aging population;
  • lifelong learning and higher education;
  • cultural production and participatory social media

... as an initial list that can be easily expanded.

5.3.1 Human longevity and aging population

In the 21st century, we have an aging population, which means not only more older people to care for, but also fewer younger people to care for them. This has impacts on healthcare, with research such as:

  • Farrell, Diana, Eric Jensen, Bob Kocher, Nick Lovegrove, Fareed Melhem, Lenny Medonca, and Beth Parish. 2008. Accounting for the cost of U.S. health care: A new look at why Americans spend more.
  • Kanzler, Ludwig, Martha Laboissiere, Sara Parker, David Urbach, and Yukako Yokoyama. 2008. The challenge of reforming Japan's health system
  • Farrell, Diana, David Court, Eric Beinhocker, John Forsyth, and Eric Greenberg. 2008. Talkin’ ’bout my generation: The economic impact of aging U.S. Baby Boomers.
  • Farrell, Diana, Martha Laboissiere, David Nuzam, and Bob Kocher. 2007. A framework to guide health care system reform.

Unlike child care, mature adults have choices and can be vocal in the matters of their own well-being.

5.3.2 Lifelong learning and higher education

In the 21st century, people change jobs and careers more frequently over their lifetimes than in archetypical industrial age.  They need retraining for jobs, as well as adult education for personal development.  Skills, mobility of labour and education originally targeted at the young may be redirected to adult learners.  Research includes:

  • Agrawal, Vivek, Kenneth Berryman, and John E Richards. 2003. "Matching people and jobs.

Adults can learn differently, as peers collaborate to to teach each other.  With new technologies, the young may teach elders as much as the elders teach the young.

5.3.3 Cultural production and participatory social media

In the 21st century, digital devices -- text, audio, images, video -- can make everyone a producer as well as an audience.  This is a shift from the style of mass media in the late 20th century.  Potentially relevant readings include

  • Bughin, Jacques, James Manyika, Andy Miller, and Michael Chui. 2008. Building Web 2.0 Enterprise: McKinsey Global Survey Results.
  • Manyika, James M, Roger P Roberts, and Kara L Sprague. 2008. "Eight business technology trends to watch..

When performers and audience aren't necessarily separated, the line between professionals and amateurs ceases to be relevant.

6. Progress and schedule

This prospectus has been informally discussed with core members, but has not yet had the assent of formal commitments.  A preliminary list of events will be reviewed in July at Brisbane.

Table 2: Potential schedule of meetings
Date Venue Agenda Participants (probable)
July 13-17, 2009 ISSS Brisbane Kickoff workshop (SIG on SABI) confirmed: Ing, Kijima, Leonard, Metcalf, Wilby
September 1-2, 2009 UKSS Oxford Proposed workshop, colocated with UKSS members probable: Ing, Wilby
possible: Leonard, Metcalf
September 3-4, 2009 Centre for Systems Studies, University of Hull Private workshop (continuing from UKSS)
November 2-9, 2009 CASCON, Richmond Hill (Toronto, Canada) Considering workshop application with Canadian attendees Workshop proposal not accepted by conference organizers
February or March 2010 CoE meeting, Tokyo Institute of Technology Invited workshop (following trend from 2 prior years) TBD
April 2010 EMCSR, Vienna Can request workshop within conference probable: Ing, Metcalf, Wilby
possible: Kijima, Leonard
April 2010 Fuschl Conversation, Austria Invited biannual event, 4 days (continuing from EMCSR?)
July 2010 ISSS Waterloo Special session of SIG on SABI probable: Ing, Kijima, Leonard, Metcalf, Wilby


Formalization of the process and content will be publically posted with the agreement of the core members.

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