In a world where almost everything is digitized, services can now be understood as concepts with infinite potential to grow and transform. What was once unimaginable now lies within the expected.
And because concepts have the multi-dimensional flexibility for infinite semantic relationships, powerful service partnerships are beginning to emerge that are able to better respond to changes in customer needs, desires and expectations. The delightful ‘Of course!’ moment often reveals itself through these service combinations, giving new meaning to the services that we use.
The term ‘bisociation’, first coined by Arthur Koestler, entered the design world in 1984 as Victor Papanek borrowed the concept and applied it to address sustainable design challenges. He used it as part of his design practice, as both a method to create innovative and sustainable products by bridging disparate (local) materials together as well as a problem-solving and ideation tool.
Think of ‘bisociation’ as when your kitchen runs scarce on ingredients and you begin to experiment with what you have in order to create new food combinations. Sometimes the combination upsets you, other times it’s not ideal but you put up with it anyway, and on some occasions the combination is so ideal that you now have to have these ingredients together.
Similarly, service 'bisociations' across industry types play a pioneering role in redefining the core values of services, causing an instant shift in mindset and in so doing, fostering new customer demands, different modes of doing and thinking, and growing expectations for future services.
SERVICE MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS
When Facebook began its plethora of platform and service acquisitions - from the popular photo app Instagram and the facial recognition platform Face.com in 2012, to the mobile instant messaging app 'WhatsApp' and the Finnish fitness tracking app ‘Moves’ in 2014 - it sought to add valued features to its service offerings. These combinations have enhanced Facebook’s facial recognition capabilities, enabled the pictorial documentation of Instagram users’ lives to blend with their existing Facebook timelines, and extending its reach into the healthcare industry by adding tracking capabilities to its toolkit. Through combinations, Facebook is able to grasp what encapsulates the elements of an individual's self-curated profile. These kinds of ‘bisociations’ have enabled Facebook to cater to the multi-faceted needs of its customer base.
Travel booking services, too, are increasingly partnering with trusted rating systems, such as TripAdvisor, to increase reliability in their service offering and provide best-in-class recommendations. In fact, a few of these travel agencies have gone a step further to craft itineraries that include restaurant reservations. For example, Priceline acquired the restaurant booking service OpenTable in 2014. This bisociation blended two business ideas together to expand their business area to also include restaurant bookings from a worldwide trusted inventory.
SERVICE & PROJECT PARTNERSHIPS
The ‘Of course’ moment of service partnerships goes something like this: Of course, I should be able to listen to my Spotify playlist while riding in the back of an Uber; and Of course, I should be able to split my Uber fare with a friend with a single tap. Through service partnerships, Uber is disrupting customer expectations. For instance, Uber partnered with Zomato (the restaurant booking app) to cater to its Indian market, by allowing Zomato users to book a ride as they book a table at a local restaurant. By combining actions to respond to an anticipated need (getting a ride to the restaurant), the two companies made it convenient for diners to plan their evening and get there on time.
In healthcare technology, the ‘bisociation’ of services has proven to have a particularly positive impact on patients’ daily lives. Fjord Accenture Interactive formed a proof-of-concept that wearable technology can help people manage difficult health conditions, such as ALS, using brain commands to interact with display interfaces, and communicate with others. Similarly, Emotiv partnered with Philips to look into the future of healthcare for ALS patients. Brain commands are connected to available products and services in the patient’s environment such as: light switches, TV controls, email, and medical help. Service combinations of this nature are proving that digital services can genuinely improve and affect the quality of our lives.
SERVICE INTEGRATION ECONOMY
Creating ‘synergies’ between services is part of a growing trend at Fjord called ‘atomization’, where businesses and organizations are beginning to open up their API(s) and allowing services to share data across industries to inform more reliable offerings and exceed customer expectations. The trend is a response to the increasingly liquid expectations of consumers, where products and services are expected to blend with the digital service landscape they operate in and complement consumers’ complex and evolving needs.
Service ‘bisociations’ are becoming essential ingredients to our ways of living and making sense of our digital environments. Combined, services can create powerful new meaning and value. And as services take on multi-faceted characteristics, they now require a more sophisticated language to express all that they can offer.
Image of perfect business partnership courtesy of Shutterstock.