Business Models and Evolving Economic Paradigms: A Systems Science Approach

David Ing


For professionals at the beginning of the 21st century, much of the conventional wisdom on business management and engineering is founded in the 20th century industrial / manufacturing paradigm. In developed economies, however, the service sector now dominates the manufacturing sector, just as manufacturing prevailed over the agricultural sector after the industrial revolution. Simultaneously, as end products have transitioned from material outputs to information in digital form, traditional business models are under siege. The economic sociology in this new world challenges the integrity of models, methods and interventions successful in an earlier paradigm.

Since 2005, IBM has encouraged universities to develop a new field of Services Science, Management and Engineering (SSME). Researchers are responding with development of a new science of service systems, but mature foundations will require years of collaboration. In the absence of a well-established science from which educational curricula can be deduced, teachers can develop educational programs for joint learning, guided inductively by relevance and pragmatism.

A new seminar on business models – ways in which business organizations operate and evolve – is proposed. Complementing traditional management and/or engineering curricula, this course challenges students to reconsider contexts, surface assumptions and explore alternative approaches to business. With a domain that includes both human and technological parts, systems science serves as a skeleton on which content can be structured.

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