Toward a research agenda for human-centered service system innovation
Solving service problems has enormous practical consequences for the economy and society because (a) more than 80% of jobs in the United States are in the service sector, with most science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates working in the service sector; (b) many complex service problems resist traditional optimization solutions; (c) private investments in platform technologies that underlie business and societal service innovations (smart service systems) are on the rise; and (d) the United States lags in public investment in service research behind countries such as Japan, China, Finland, and Germany. The search for service innovation requires new theories and new methods to address problems unique to services, and what little students are being taught about the service sector has not kept up with the rapid growth of STEM jobs in service or with modern entrepreneurial opportunities. We think that effective understanding of complex human-centered service systems requires a new approach that combines multiple methods, perhaps drawing from industrial engineering and operations research, social and behavioral sciences, information systems, and computer science and computational modeling. In this commentary, we outline a series of broad considerations and concerns, fundamental and applied questions, and specific research agenda items for service system innovation.