Guest article by Chiara Orsingher.

A couple of days ago I was browsing on the Internet, and I accidentally came across research titled “Subjectivity and complexity of facial attractiveness” that appeared in Scientific Reports in 2019. Researchers from the Physics Department at La Sapienza University in Rome developed a software that allowed subjects to sculpt their favorite variation of one reference facial image instead of rating the attractiveness of several displayed faces. For an unknown reason, in my mind I immediately twisted the title into “Subjectivity and complexity of mental attractiveness” and related this title to the invitation I received to write about my academic role model.
What if I could sculpt my favorite mind?
Who are the people I would mention to sculpt my favorite academic role model?

Sculpting my Academic Role Model

The first person would be Richard Bagozzi. I met him many years ago, just after my Ph.D. and I was soon fascinated by Rick’s posture towards our work, by his way of being a Professor even before working as a Professor. Three characteristics of his mind inspire me. The first is his curious attitude. His research spans from emotions, to decision making, social identity, theory of action, neuroscience, and it is always so insightful.
The second is Rick’s practice to put methodological rigor at the service of the research questions. Rick’s work has taught me that methods are not an exercise for their own sake but a mean to provide an answer to a research question. The third is his enduring passion for research. I remember that in 2013 Rick was awarded by the Rector of the University of Bologna the Medal of Science for his contribution to knowledge in science. In that circumstance, someone asked Rick what he thought about retirement. His answer was: “I am a Professor. You cannot retire from being a Professor”. Wow!

The second mind I would use to sculpt my academic role model is Pierre Eiglier. If you know his name it’s maybe because you started the service research journey in the ’80, or maybe because you have attended the La Londe Conference in the southern part of France.
Pierre was my supervisor, my mentor, and my friend. Unfortunately, Pierre left us in February 2020, but the legacy he left me is alive and continues to inspire my passion for service management. Pierre has written few academic articles and, apart from a well-known book in Europe, Servuction, has not contributed to the scientific debate through the journals like his colleagues. However, he was very brilliant, and I would employ two characteristics of his thinking. The first is the idea that service research should always help companies to improve their business, it should not stay within the academic walls but should be disseminated among organizations. The second is the idea that the best way to improve service organizations is to have research guide the actions of top managers, middle managers, and frontline employees. A very democratic use of service research.

The third mind I would need to sculpt my academic role model is David Bowen. I need Dave’s deep knowledge of the foundations of the organizational behavior and service literature. I also need his ability to theorize and conduct sharp conceptual thinking. Dave has inspired my way of doing research in services by emphasizing the value of interdisciplinarity. For a long time, Dave has highlighted the need for interdisciplinary (and not just multidisciplinary) research in services, and I think his beliefs are even more compelling now that disciplines such as computer science and neuroscience are becoming more and more relevant in the service field. There are two other fundamental ingredients of his mind that I would need: his clever humor and his friendliness toward all matters.

These are three beautiful minds and persons that have inspired me over the past years. Looking forward, I am happy that the service community is populated by so many brilliant, creative and inspiring colleagues. Among these, I would like to nominate Yves Van Vaerenbergh and Katja Gelbrich as the next authors of this series.

Chiara Orsingher
Associate Professor of Marketing,
Department of Management,
Università di Bologna