2010/08 The Science of Service Systems, IFSR Conversation in Pernegg


David Ing


The generative conversation at the IFSR Conversation in Pernegg (April 2010) was a culmination of Conversations on an Emerging Science of Service Systems begun at the ISSS meeting in Brisbane in July 2009.

The proceedings for the IFSR Conversation were subsequently published in August 2010.


The conversation began with self-reflections on personal experiences leading each of the individuals to the systems sciences, acknowledging the influence of those trajectories on their perspectives on service systems. In recognition of this science of service systems as a potentially a new paradigm, much of the time together was spent in sensemaking about the intersection between ongoing services research and systems sciences perspectives. This sensemaking led the team to focus the dialogue more on posing the right questions to clarify thinking broadly, as opposed to diving deeply towards solutions that would be tied up as issues within a problematique.

During the conversation, the progress on ideas was recorded on flipcharts. Nearing the end of our time together, the team cut up the flipcharts with scissors, and collated the discussion threads into five clusters: (i) philosophy; (ii) science; (iii) models; (iv) education; (v) development. With service systems as a new domain, the team found all five clusters underdeveloped. Recognizing that all five clusters are coevolving, the phenomenon of service systems was listed in order from the most concrete (i.e. development) through the most abstract (i.e. philosophy). Each of the five clusters was then summarized by a meta-question.

  • 1. Development: How do we transition from the current paradigm?
  • 2. Education: How do we help others learn about service systems?
  • 3. Models: How do we understand and decribe service systems?
  • 4. Science: What do we know about service systems?
  • 5. Philosophy: Why do (or should) we care about services systems?

Each of the meta-questions is described below, with some of the dialogue content associated with the question clusters.


David Ing, with Norimasa Kobayashi, Allenna Leonard, Gary Metcalf, Todd Bowers, Janet Singer and Jennifer Wilby, "The Science of Service Systems ", in Proceedings of the Fifteenth IFSR Conversation, (Gerhard Chroust and Gary S. Metcalf, editors), Institute for Systems Engineering and Automation, University of Linz, SEA-SR-28, August 2010.