An Economist who practices Service Design 3

Economist by education, Sylvain Cottong has spent his career at the intersections of business, society, technology, science & culture, with the value of design for process, service & product development and more generally with leadership & innovation. He lives & works in Luxembourg and Berlin. Sylvain is my guest next week on the Business901 podcast and I started out our conversation by asking him…

Joe: I find it pretty interesting that you are an economist who practices innovation. You may have to go back a bit but how did that come about?

Sylvain CottongSylvain:  Economists try to measure innovation, especially today. I just wrote a report for the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy on service innovation. They try to understand what innovation is and how to measure it and how to support it better and what is the criteria, the real criteria that they should take to support companies starting that are innovative, etc.

Innovation is a very economic concept today as we know that we can’t really go on with that much more cost-cutting and newer customers or markets because a lot of stuff is saturated.

Innovation gets one of the most important, if not the single most important driver for new value creation. Economists definitely get much more interested in how innovation works, what it is and how to measure it. That’s not the easiest stuff for them because innovation is not something that you could measure, like water flow or something like that.

Joe: You hit a key point right there. Even though I come from the process methodology world, I simply don’t think faster, better, cheaper works anymore because it’s not sustainable. It’s the innovation side, and the user and customer experience side is where the growth for your company is located today.

Sylvain: Yes. Of course. I totally agree with you, and I’m also totally convinced about that.

You could also look at it from a different point of view, from the microeconomic point of view, which is about value creation and value perception. What do people consider as value? This is something that might evolve over time. This is dependent on what culturally is going on. This is also dependent how people are connected and can talk to each other, how information is circulating, etc.

This of course, we all know, is something that fundamentally changed since the emergence of the Internet, starting from something like ’95 maybe where all these things change. That’s also why economists are interested in it because microeconomics is a part of economics, so there’s also The Service-Dominant Logic of Marketing you might know about Stephen Vargo and Robert Lusch writing about Service Dominant Logic in a more academic way, how marketing is changing.

By reading their articles you see that in fact they are talking about the microeconomic paradigm of value. What is value, how does a customer see value? Where does he see value? That’s pretty much something I am very interested in and of course from the customer’s perspective, and this is also very interesting for economists, because it’s where it all starts.

You can find Sylvain at strategybuilders.eu: A Luxembourg based network of international consultants.

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