Saturday, June 8, 2013

T-shaped research

I visited Jim Spohrer at IBM Almaden recently. Jim, as many of us know, was responsible to conceptualizing the broad set of research questions (and the multi-disciplinary approach to addressing these) that is known today as service science. The Service Science Society of Australia, which I have the privilege of serving as President, is tasked with promoting service innovation in Australia, along the lines that Jim originally conceived.

My conversation with Jim left me with many good ideas. The idea of T-shaped skills is compelling. Very little T-shaped research tends to happen, yet this is perhaps where the biggest wins are. There was quite intense discussion on the impediments to inter-disciplinary research at the International Conference on Service Science and Innovation in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in late May (where I presented an invited talk and led a panel discussion on Service Engineering). Many recent research successes in our space (which I define very broadly) is the outcome of T-shaped research - IBM's Watson system is probably a good example.

Very little T-shaped research seems to happen in my neck of the woods. Japan, Taiwan and South Korea seem to have invested seriously in service science, and in T-shaped research.

It is probably time for Australia to do the same.