Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Offerings as Commitments and Context: Service Systems from a Language Action Perspective

As I’ve been doing research into service systems, I’ve reached my own conclusions about two blind spots in the current literature.

  • 1. There continues to be a lot of debates about the distinctions (and non-distinctions) between services and products. From a systems perspective, I’m satisfied that the most important features are sufficiently covered by a definition of offerings initially conceived by Richard Normann, and further developed by Rafael Ramirez and Johan Wallin. Features are expressed in three dimensions of physical content, service and infrastructure content, and people (relationship) content.
  • 2. Descriptions of service systems often follow mechanistic frames for function, structure and process that are helpful for understanding physical aspects of a system, but are less helpful for understanding the social contexts of collaboration. Conversations for action — also known as the language action perspective initiated by Fernando Flores and Terry Winograd — are an alternative way to model some aspects of human-to-human interaction, coming from the field of computer science. Language action is well known to reserachers in computer-supported cooperative work — actually famous or infamous, depending on your point of view — but less well known in by business researchers. The social perspective is inescapable in this perspective, because only human beings can make commitments. (Try blaming a machine for an error, and see if it cares!)

Since a service system is a social system, combining the above models of offerings and conversations for action is helpful in recognizing the types of obligations made about products, services, and (people) relationships.

As I was doing research on offerings for my dissertation, it occurred to me that there are at least four types of commitments: (a) a commitment to produce a product, (b) a commitment to follow a process, (c) a commitment to provide a capability, or (d) a commitment contribute towards a relationship.

Commitments, and their failure to come to fruition, occur in the context of other commitments, language (without directly associated action) and action (without directly associated language).

I included these ideas in a review of my dissertation work with friends / fellow researchers in Iowa in February. The reception was a bit frosty, because the style of my dissertation is inductive (i.e. facts to theory), and this new model is deductive (i.e. theory to facts). My friends were helpful in suggesting that I remove this new model from my dissertation. I already have more than enough content for the thesis, and working in these ideas would only produce more dissonance. It’s good to have constructive criticism like this!

In the spring, I decided that I needed to write some papers for conferences. For the UK Systems Society meeting in Oxford, I developed the ideas as a paper, and then with an accompanying presentation. To my surprise, at the conference at the beginning of September, the paper was awarded Best Student Paper for UKSS 2008.1

See the paper and presentation at http://coevolving.com/commons/2008_Systemist_v30_n2_p154_Ing_Offerings-Language-Action .

I appreciate the recognition for my work. Since I’m not a full-time academic, I’m not as motivated as most researchers to publish in academic journals. As one of the more mature graduate students, I’m disinclined to write “homework papers” for academic credit that are never seen again, after grading. The award also speaks to the reality that an author may not be the best person to judge his or her own work. I will continue to spend many more months working on my dissertation, so I’m happy that others may find this spin-off from my research to an alternative way of thinking about service systems.


1 Actually, the judges decided to award two best student papers for 2008. My paper was more theoretical, whereas the paper by Eben le Roux on “Initiating change in a context of change – considering the effect of contextual challenges in a transitional government” was more methodological and applied. At the presentation of the awards, programme chair Christine Welch said that the papers were so different that the judges found head-to-head comparisons unreasonable. I’m glad for systems thinking in the evaluation process!

References

David Ing, “Offerings as Commitments and Context: Service Systems from a Language Action Perspective “, Systemicist, volume 30, number 2 (Christine Welch and Jennifer M. Wilby, editors), pp. 154-172, presented at the UK Systems Society International Conference, St. Anne’s College, Oxford, September 1, 2008, available on the Coevolving Innovations Commons.

1 Comment


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  • RSS qoto.org/@daviding (Mastodon)

    • daviding: “In the #anthropocene, humans can impact less.…” April 17, 2022
      In the #anthropocene, humans can impact less.> The report shows that Canada's economy can grow without increasing carbon emissions. The country's GDP grew 22 per cent between 2005 and 2020, but carbon emissions declined by 9.3 per cent over that period.https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/climate-change-pandemic-emissions-canada-1.6420159
    • daviding: “With #CodeForCanada , a presentation + workshop guide for #C…” April 15, 2022
      With #CodeForCanada , a presentation + workshop guide for #CanadianDigitalService on "#SystemsThinking through Changes: An #ActionLearning guide" is available CC-BY-SA https://coevolving.com/blogs/index.php/archive/systems-thinking-through-changes/ . A milestone release by #SystemsChanges Learning Circle for practitioners, alongside publication in review
    • daviding: “When there is a larger threat from outside, attention is dra…” March 25, 2022
      When there is a larger threat from outside, attention is drawn away from internal struggles within. #RobertReich puts a historical perspective on current affairs in the USA. > Putin has brought a fractured Nato together. Maybe he’s bringing America back together too. It’s the thinnest of silver linings to the human disaster he’s creating, but […]
    • daviding: “For those who are critical about "design thinking", #KarelVr…” January 27, 2022
      For those who are critical about "design thinking", #KarelVredenburg makes the strong distinction between design and pseudo-design. https://www.karelvredenburg.com/home/2021/10/9/cr2h7dllvanrttb1tn8cfx1zjuhqol
    • daviding: “"Why Science Does Not Know: A Brief History of (the Notion o…” December 4, 2021
      "Why Science Does Not Know: A Brief History of (the Notion of) Scientific Ignorance in the Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries" https://journalhistoryknowledge.org/articles/10.5334/jhk.40/?s=09
  • RSS on IngBrief

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • RSS on daviding.com

    • 2022/06 Moments June 2022
      Social calendar for month was full with Toronto Biennal of Art, Luminato, Taste of Little Italy and Toronto Jazz Festival, plus family dim sum and dinners.
    • 2022/05 Moments May 2022
      Spring return from California visit, into Toronto coming back to life with city activities.
    • 2022/04 Moments April 2022
      Spring sees art exhibitions opening up around Toronto, then a trip to the Bay Area in Northern California to visit family and friends.
    • 2022/03 Moments March 2022
      Emergence from hibernation at home, as winter gives way to spring
    • 2022/02 Moments February 2022
      Walking rather than bicycling in a colder winter this year, travel out of the neighbourhood by car.
    • 2022/01 Moments January 2022
      An indoor start to the year, with the combination of cold weather and pandemic restrictions coincident with writing a journal article to deadline at the end of the month.
  • RSS on Media Queue

  • Meta

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
    Theme modified from DevDmBootstrap4 by Danny Machal