Guest article by Cristina Mele and Francesco Polese

For more photos & impressions of the conference click here

The 5th Naples Forum on Service was held 6–9 June 2017 at the superb Hotel Cocumella, an old convent, nestled in a park of old trees and a beautiful garden, overlooking the sea, in Sant’Agnello, Sorrento (Naples). Since its founding in 2009, the Naples Forum on Service has become a keynote event for the community of service academics and practitioners, focused on three main pillars: the service-dominant (S-D) logic, service science, and network/systems theory. The goal is to encourage an integrative perspective in research, while also facilitating networking and the efforts of participants to co-author with their colleagues.

This fifth edition of the Forum concentrated in particular on efforts to stimulate service research, with recognition of the increasing complexity characterizing modern economies and societies. The substantial debate revolved around value propositions, value co-creation, resource integration, customer experience, engagement, digital technologies, practices, markets, service systems, and ecosystems. To enrich classical arguments in marketing, take a more in-depth approach to key topics and valorize different perspectives, mainly with an interdisciplinary view, service scholars address the increasing complexity of key phenomena with more complex frames and meta-models. Service research thus is contributing to a deeper understanding of economies as complex networks of service systems, whose goal is to enhance value for consumers, citizens, businesses and society as a whole.

The Forum welcomed contributions from 180 scholars from around the world, representing all five continents. In addition, on June 6 it featured a doctoral workshop at the Grand Hotel Cocumella, guided by several prominent scholars (Rod Brodie, Cristina Mele, Jaqueline Pels, Francesco Polese, Marianna Sigala and Steve Vargo). Doctoral students had the opportunity to present their dissertation projects and obtain clear feedback and insights, as well as suggestions for improving their studies. Later that day, the conference started officially, with participants welcomed by a package provided by the famous Italian company (and conference sponsor) Carpisa. A welcome aperitif served to attendees on a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea of Sorrento as the sun set made for a perfect venue to start conversing and networking.

On June 7, in their opening speech, Cristina Mele and Francesco Polese shared greetings from Evert Gummesson and Jim Spohrer, who were not able to attend, and welcomed participants. The conversation next turned to a heartfelt tribute to Robert Lusch, a founding father of the S-D logic, who passed away on February 23, 2017. A video highlighting Bob’s life, including one of his first interviews at the 2009 Naples Forum, played, followed by words that would inspire participants throughout the rest of the event:

Thanks, Bob. We are sure that you will continue to be part of our Service Community for your inspiring work and determinant contribute in shaping and promoting service research.

Stephen L. Vargo, the co-innovator of the S-D logic, then presented the latest advances in the field and some important directions for further research. The S-D logic has changed the way marketing and service scientists and professionals see their world, reflecting a shift in perspective that conceptualizes and prioritizes the relational nature of value creation.

Following this welcome ceremony, parallel sessions in the morning and the afternoon covered multiple critical topics. Resource integration, servitization, dark sides, service experience, healthcare and markets, engagement, value propositions, value co-creation in service and IT platforms emerged as some of the most important topics addressed in the sessions, which helped advance both service theory and practice. In addition, a special parallel session, “The Hub of All Things (HAT),” focused on the digital revolution and how it is changing interactions among actors. Digitisation has emerged as central means to understand leading service innovations that give rise to new service ecosystems and hasten the disappearance of others. Technological advances represent both a challenge and an opportunity for growth in unexpected realms.

In the afternoon, three keynote speakers provided insights and opportunities for reflection. Michael Baker, Emeritus Professor of Marketing at the University of Strathclyde, offered “Research Myopia Revisited.” Hugh Wilson and Emma Macdonald, both of Cranfield School of Management, addressed core concepts of service science: business solutions, resource integration, and value in use. After a short break in magnificent Sant’Agnello, with its stunning cliffs overlooking the sea, the conference dinner took place at a Massalubrense villa, offering traditional food and local wine, along with the beautiful sea view and a jazz musician playing during an astonishing sunset.

The offerings on June 8 started with outstanding plenary speakers, who gave fresh insights into the frontiers in service research and suggested a new research agenda. Alexandra Medina Borja, the managing program officer for the Partnerships for Innovation, Building Innovation Capacity Program, of the U.S. National Science Foundation, addressed the human technology frontier and its impact on service science. Francesco Polese (University of Salerno), Sergio Barile (“La Sapienza” University of Rome) and Raul Espejo (Director-General of the World Organization of Systems and Cybernetics) next discussed the alignment among value co-creation actors, in an effort to explicate the structural and systemic conditions that can ensure successful value co-creation exchanges. In addition, Irene Ng (University of Warwick, UK) presented another view on “The Hub of All Things (HAT),” a multi-disciplinary project that seeks to create the first multi-sided market technology platform for consumers’ homes, which would enable people to share their data in return for personalised products and services. A senior professor of the sociology of organizations and one of the founders of the practice-based approach, Silvia Gherardi (University of Trento, UK) offered insights on “Service in Practice and Practising Service,” exploring the potential contributions of practice theories to service theories.

In parallel sessions, theoretical approaches and service research also were addressed, dedicated to the development of the S-D logic. Notably, some sessions concentrated on understanding the concepts of service experiences, value-in-use and value-in-context, in an explicit effort aim to highlight the ties among these constructs.

During all the day, Inside Marketing interviewed a few participants. The interviews can be watched at you tube channel:

Later that afternoon, Forum participants enjoyed a guided tour of Sorrento, home to fragrant citrus groves and old elegance, where alleys twist and turn through small shops selling ancient crafts—traditions unchanged over time. The Gala Dinner, held at the Hotel Continental in Sorrento, allowed attendees to appreciate the breath-taking views one more time, as well as many Neapolitan food specialties. The Gala Dinner also hosted the awards ceremony, honoring the following contributors:

Fourth S-D Logic award: Service Research Center, CTF.

5th Naples Forum on Service Best Paper on Service Dominant Logic: Lappalainen, I., Airola, M., Nuutinen, M., “Emphatic Understanding as a Source of Value Co-Creation and Differentiation.”

5th Naples Forum on Service Best Paper on Network and System Theory: Badi, S., Razmdoost, K., Murtagh, N., “When Service Ecosystems Collapse: Understanding the Demise of the UK Green Deal.”

5th Naples Forum on Service Best Paper on Service Science: Botti, A., Grimaldi, M., Vesci, M., “Integrating VSA and S-D Logic for Conceptualising Viable Value Co-Creation: An Application to Entrepreneurial Intention and Innovation in Service Ecosystems.”

Best Paper Award at the 5th Naples Forum on Service, sponsored by Journal of Service Theory and Practice: Spurrell, M., Araujo, L., Proudove, N., “An Exploration of Valuation Practices in Complex Case Review in Health Care.”

2017 Highly Commended Award by Journal of Service Theory and Practice: Koskela-Huotari, K., Vargo, S.L. “Institutions as Resource Context.” (2016, Vol. 26, Issue: 2, pp.163-178).

2017 Evert Gummesson Outstanding Research Award:

  • Bo For his long-standing contributions to and support of service research and education. His leadership of the Service Research Center (CTF) at Karlstad University, Sweden, has been and will continue to be a major, global driver of the field.
  • Jaqueline Pels. For her constant enthusiasm to seek new ways to understand the complexity of marketing and for her activities to connect Latin America with Europe and other parts of the world.
  • Kaj Storbacka. For his long career as a scholar and consultant, during which he has shown the ability to not only conceptualise management and service but also work closely with companies to implement changes, and for his continued support of the S-D logic and the Naples Forum on Service.

On Friday, June 9, a plenary session was hosted by Roderick J. Brodie (University of Auckland), Jodi Conduit (University of Adelaide), Helge Löbler (University of Leipzig), Cristina Mele (University of Naples “Federico II”) and Jaqueline Pels (University of Torcuato Di Tella). These scholars initiated an interesting debate about the theorizing process and its implications for service research. A special commentary by Steve Vargo on the critical role of mid-range theory then animated the debate about future developments of the S-D logic. The parallel sessions on this day addressed different themes, such as value co-creation and the changing role of suppliers and customers, as well as emerging concepts in business settings of service ecosystems. Finally, the Forum closed with a stimulating discussion among Ralph Badinelli (Virginia Tech), Bo Edvardsson (Karlstad University), Cristina Mele (University of Naples “Federico II”), Francesco Polese (University of Salerno), Kay Storbacka (University of Auckland) and Steve Vargo (University of Hawaii). The debate inspired further discussions with participants in the audience.

As in previous years, being the co-chairs of the 5th Naples Forum provided a fantastic engagement and a highly enjoyable experience. Enthusiastic comments from the participants offer the best evidence of the value co-created through this Forum. For example:

“The Naples Forum is special; you feel something different as to be in a family. The forum is a Family”.

The Naples Forum epitomises the role and content of academic events: cross-disciplinary participation, positive and constructive debate, combined with a spirit of fellowship and friendship—all creating a platform for co-creation of new knowledge and new collaborations”.

Let me congratulate you on last week’s Forum. It was conducted with the warmth and generosity of mind and spirit that we can probably call Italian-dominant logic”.

I had a wonderful time. Excellent company, stimulating conversations about important issues, a super agenda, and a beautiful infrastructure and environment. And lovely food, drink, views, and sunshine! Overall, food for the soul. So thank you and your super team for all that hard work and cheerful hospitality. I totally agree with Steve’s final comments that though we have come together because we share some inspirations and motivations around service, there was absolutely and properly no shortage of intellectual diversity on display this week. What was present was the community: a commitment to help and sustain each other, and to look for opportunities to move together collectively as well as individually. In a world in danger of fracturing in multiple dimensions, that’s precious indeed”.