Sunday, April 23, 2006
Disciplining Services Science
Several universities are creating courses and curricula on the services economy and on the design, implementation and deployment of services, including UC Berkeley, where I'm part of a small faculty group developing a Services Science, Management, and Engineering (SSME) certificate for master's students in the School of Information, in the College of Engineering, and in the Haas School of Business.
I think that Berkeley and North Carolina State are the only universities with programs that are called "SSME" -- but that's only because some other schools like Penn State, RPI, Maryland and ASU have already been teaching about services in their departments of Industrial Engineering, Decision Sciences, Business, or Management.
I gave a talk about our efforts at Berkeley, and I raised the bigger question about the relationship of a discipline of Services Science to the various curricula that are springing up. A DISCIPLINE is a principled model of a coherent body of research and practice, while a CURRICULUM is a set of courses or program of study leading to a degree or certificate. The distinction seems pretty important, because the SSME programs that emerge are going to be pretty different, reflecting the emphases and character that reflect the history, location, faculty, typical employers for their students, etc. of the universities or departments that create them. I think a model of a discipline can generate many different curricula and can be used to assess and compare their coverage. Without some intellectual foundation and principles that are explicitly shared by all the curricula, their surface differences will make it hard for a Services Science to mean anything.
So what we're doing at Berkeley is somewhat different from the other universities. Instead of starting from any existing curriculum or course, we're asking "What are the key concepts, themes, and challenges that a SSME discipline should encompass" and generating questions that the disciplines that are coming together in Services Science should be able to answer. For example:
- How do firms change over time?
- What mechanisms does each discipline propose that firms use to seek and maintain advantages?
- How does each discipline evaluate the success of innovations or adaptations?
- How does each discipline propose that firms encode what they learn in new mechanisms, organizational forms, or information technology?
- How does each discipline explain why and how services combine, standardize, and evolve?
- How does each discipline propose to evaluate and optimize a service?
We're not quite there yet, but we are developing new courses in Services Science that will be organized around these kinds of questions. We need to discipline ourselves to make this happen by the Fall semester, because we are already scheduled to teach the first of these new courses, one called "The Information and Services Economy."