Book Review The Service Innovation Handbook

By Zhenyu (Sherry) Xue – 2016 Mitacs Globalink intern at UBC

After reading Business Model Generation, I got my second reading assignment—The Service Innovation Handbook. Equipped with basic knowledge about strategic design, I began my deeper exploration into service innovation.


The Service Innovation Handbook is a useful guide for service organizations to think and do things differently. It provides concepts to think with, cases to learn from and methods and templates to work with.


The book focuses on the early stages of the innovation process when ambiguity is high, the impact of changes are significant and investment in people and other resources is low. It outlines the key activities that can be taken and the reasons to take them in eight chapters.


Chapter 1 links creating new concepts, knowledge and competencies together inside and outside of organizations. Chapter 2 provides five capabilities that help respond to turbulent environments through strategic way-finding. Chapter 3 summarizes different ways of thinking about experience, which is key to value-in-use that sees value as created in practice, shaped by behaviors and typically takes place outside organizations’ domains of expertise. Chapter 4 reviews three developments—big data, thick data and open data for research and analysis. Chapter 5 offers different practices to generate creativity during service innovation. Chapter 6 discusses how to do exploratory prototyping at the initial stage of designing innovative services. Chapter 7 highlights impact and designing for outcomes. And lastly, Chapter 8 concludes by reviewing how organizations can develop capacities at the early stage of service innovation.


As a student with a business background, some ideas in this book were familiar to me, but by combining powerful concepts such as services management, customer experience management, innovation studies, ethnography and design, the book inspires me to think in new ways.


In addition to the theoretical concepts, I’m especially impressed by the cases and methods. Those real-life examples illustrate the challenges involved in different aspects of designing innovative services and how the organizations deal with them. Learning from these practical cases, I now have a deeper understanding of the concepts in each chapter. What’s more, three recipes in the end pull together concepts and methods from the whole book to support initiatives and give me a way to explore the approaches in my own contexts.


As demonstrated on the book cover, The Service Innovation Handbook is an action-oriented creative thinking toolkit for service organizations. It’s a multi-layered “how to think” guide with practical approaches to designing innovation services.


Link to the book:


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