Increasingly firms realize that external knowledge is fundamental for innovation and success when navigating in environments of high uncertainty. Therefore, firms engage to co-create knowledge with external stakeholders (e.g. customers, suppliers, competitors, platform operators) during the innovation process. The shift towards the integration of external stakeholders consequently becomes the fundamental way to innovate today.
This doesn’t mean that internal R&D efforts are to neglect but should be qualitatively complemented by strategic initiatives to integrate further stakeholders. External stakeholders provide resources (e.g. knowledge & skills, relationships, information, etc.) that allow the focal firm to create and offer value propositions beyond their own resource potential.
As a result, firms operate in changing combinations of stakeholders, resources and contexts that allow to propose and engage in service exchanges aiming to increase the benefits of value co-creation of each engaged actor. According to service-dominant logic this constitutes a service ecosystem which is a relatively self-contained, self-adjusting system of resource-integrating actors connected by shared institutional logics and mutual value creation through service exchange.
This approach towards innovation doesn’t come without new challenges how actors provide and integrate resources. These service exchanges and their value co-creation processes can be asymmetric for actors depending on the resources they possess, provide and are able to access. With all those choices and the necessity of integrating resources managers and scholars start to ask what prerequisites, practices, tools and formats enable effective and efficient mutual integration of resources. There is much to learn about the practices of integrating resources and how to design and configure its process. When one can understand the practices how different actors (any engaged stakeholder in an ecosystem) integrate resources then it is possible to design for those situations and create engaging prerequisites.
This research project is concerned about how and with what methods one can integrate stakeholders and their resources in order to learn about how to create a resource integrating system – that is the prerequisite for service innovation.
A first conceptual paper in this project aims to contribute to the scarce body of knowledge on actors’ resource integration by exploring the role of signals and noise in the resource integration process. The purpose is to expand the understanding of resource integration in service ecosystems. In a service ecosystem actors are experts in their respective area (expert system) but are non-experts when trying to engage with and integrate resources from another expert system. In order to access, evaluate and integrate resources across expert systems actors need to bridge the informational gap on available resources. We contend that actors intentionally engage in signaling and screening practices to give and gain access to resources and that the whole resource integration process is a continuous dialogue of these practices. Furthermore, this dialogue doesn’t happen in a vacuum but is accompanied by noise that constitutes the informational part of the practice that was not intended by the signaling or screening actor. As a result, we propose that signals and noise are the enabling and constraining mechanisms for actors’ resource access within the resource integration process. Additionally, signals are mainly intentional and therefore can be designed to moderate the flow of resources in a service ecosystem. These propositions constitute an important contribution for the conceptual basis in this research project.
Figure 1: An Extended Resource Access, Evaluation and Integration Framework (based on Resource Integration Framework by Kleinaltenkamp et al. (2012). Resource integration. Marketing Theory, 12(2), 201–205.
The paper concludes with future research directions that will lay out some of the upcoming studies of the dissertation project. In a second paper I will continue to study resource integration by focusing on how value propositions attract actors’ resources as invitations for actors’ engagement in service. Later then I will move on to develop specific methods with the focus on designing resource integrating systems for service innovation.