The Handbook of Innovation and Services
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The Handbook of Innovation and Services

A Multi-disciplinary Perspective

Edited by Faïz Gallouj and Faridah Djellal

This Handbook brings together 49 international specialists to address an issue of increasing importance for the world’s post-industrial economies; innovation as it relates to services.
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Chapter 12: The Toilsome Path of Service Innovation: The Effects of the Law of Low Human Multi-task Capability

Jon Sundbo


Jon Sundbo 12.1 Introduction This chapter looks at the character of service innovation and the organisational and strategic system that produces innovations in services. The point the chapter wishes to make is that innovation in service firms is a social activity involving many actors and having many trajectories. It is a labile process that can go in many different directions and easily comes to a halt. Optimising the process (not driving it too hard, but not letting it come to a halt) is difficult as it demands extra effort from the management. The chapter discusses explanations of why this is so, and whether it needs to be so. While this chapter is theoretical in nature, it is based on many empirical case studies of innovation in services which have been carried out since the 1980s (these include Gallouj, 1994; Andersen et al., 2000; Boden and Miles, 2000; Tidd and Hull, 2005; Toivonen et al., 2007), and the author’s own contributions (e.g. Sundbo, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2008b; SIC, 1999). Why are attempts to innovate in services apparently not very efficient, and why is radical innovation in services so rare (European Commission, 2004b)? These issues need investigating if we want to increase the beneficial effects of services in terms of growth and the radical strategic advantages of innovation to service firms (such as for example expressed in the ‘blue ocean’, Kim and Mauborgne, 2005). This chapter will discuss barriers to innovation, and it will be argued that the seemingly low efficiency of...

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