Sascha Struwe defended his PhD thesis

Sascha Struwe defended his PhD thesis

Sascha Struwe from Aalborg University Business School defended his thesis “Innovating the Invisible and Intangible: Value Creation in B2B service”.

The title of Sascha’s lecture, which took place May 24 2022, was “Approaches and challenges to conceptualising research on service innovation”. Members of the assessment committee were:

  • Professor Marin Marinov, Aalborg University Business School (chair)
  • Associate Professor Stine Haakonsson, Copenhagen Business School (CBS)
  • Professor, Jonas Gabrielsson, Högskolan i Halmstad

Summary of the thesis

This thesis explores how value creation in B2B service innovation unfolds. It investigates the dynamics and challenges service-innovating actors in B2B settings face and how they manage the value creation process. For this purpose, the thesis positions itself in the service sciences and the service innovation literature, using service-dominant logic (SDL) as its foundational theoretical lens.

The motivation for this thesis and its research question is the identified inability of the service innovation literature to explain how B2B service innovation can be achieved. This matters because while services have become the key pillar of economic development and firm competitiveness, most service innovation attempts remain unsuccessful and forfeit the chance to create value for firms, customers, and society. Moreover, service innovation is an international phenomenon that crosses national boundaries and cultures. Actors engaging in these complex environments often find themselves with limited advice for co-creation and effectively managing tensions and conflicts. Additionally, service innovation is not limited to pure service firms but is increasingly seen as an opportunity by industrial firms. Following this trend and due to the proliferation of technologies, digital servitization has become a way to remain competitive, but what conceptualizes the necessary capabilities to successfully create value within this journey remains insignificantly understood. Lastly, value creation in B2B service innovation does not happen in a vacuum but in emerging service ecosystems of interrelated actors. However, a holistic understanding of the value creation process matching the systemic nature of actor interactions is mostly unexplored.

The thesis employs a systematic literature review and a set of single and multiple case studies to address these gaps. The first article explores the underlying concepts of value creation in B2B service innovation. The study provides a synthesis of these concepts and finds that the literature is characterized by a fragmented and incohesive knowledge body. The second article conducts a longitudinal single case study following a German creative agency’s relationship with its German client in China, examining their relationship breakdown. It concludes that failing to identify actor institutions of value assessment and adjusting service interfaces and infrastructure accordingly can lead to relationship termination. The third article conducts a multiple case study of firms successfully engaging in digital servitization developing digital service platforms. The study conceptualizes a set of four capabilities (i.e. digital literacy, aligning, reflecting, and coping) necessary for value co-creation (VCC) and value co-production. Finally, the fourth article explores value creation in emerging open banking service ecosystems, conducting a multiple case study of three leading retail banks from the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia. It finds that value creation is a contextually embedded process that entails an interplay between VCC and value co-destruction (VCD), facilitating a dialectic process.

Based on theoretical and empirical findings, this thesis enhances our understanding of value creation in B2B service innovation and makes various contributions. Its literature review provides insights into the characteristics of the literature stream, a systematic account of the underlying value creation concepts, and future avenues for research in B2B service innovation. Furthermore, the thesis conceptualizes value creation in B2B service innovation as a complicated multi-actor process, subject to an ongoing interplay of VCC and VCD, affecting actor value states resulting from the subjective experience of VCC and VCD. Moreover, it highlights the influence of institutions and context on value assessment and the role of mechanisms for satisfactory outcomes. The thesis also emphasizes the criticality of appropriate capabilities as facilitators of mechanisms and VCC. In a broader sense, the thesis contributes to an improved understanding of service and service innovation, reducing its intangibility by providing insights into diverse empirical contexts and offering a theoretical explanation.

Keywords: Value Creation, Value Co-creation, Value Co-destruction, Business-to-Business, Service Innovation, Service-Dominant Logic, Capabilities, Mechanisms.

Further information

Sascha Struwe
Aalborg University Business School

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