Reframing service innovation: COVID-19 as a catalyst for imposed service innovation

Kristina Heinonen*, Tore Strandvik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

162 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The empirical study draws on a crowdsourced database of 221 innovations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Design/methodology/approach: Aside from the health and humanitarian crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an acute economic downturn in most sectors, forcing public and private organizations to rethink and reconfigure service provision. The paper introduces the concept of imposed service innovation as a new strategic lens to augment the extant view of service innovation as a primarily discretionary activity. Findings: The identified imposed service innovations were assigned to 11 categories and examined in terms of their strategic horizon and strategic stretch. The innovations are characterized by spatial flexibility, social and health outreach and exploitation of technology. Research limitations/implications: As a new area of service innovation research, imposed service innovations highlight strategic issues that include the primacy of customers and the fragility of institutions. Practical implications: Situations involving imposed service innovation represent opportunities for rapid business development when recognized as such. A severe disruption such as a pandemic can catalyze managerial rethinking as organizations are forced to look beyond their existing business strategies. Social implications: As a strategic response to severe disruption of institutions, markets and service offerings, imposed service innovations afford opportunities to implement transformation and enhance well-being. This novel strategic lens foregrounds a societal account of service innovation, emphasizing societal relevance and context beyond the challenges of business viability alone. Originality/value: While extant service innovation research has commonly focused on discretionary activities that enable differentiation and growth, imposed service innovations represent actions for resilience and renewal.

Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Service Management
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)101-112
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15.09.2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • service innovation
  • pandemic
  • disruption
  • dynamic capabilities
  • resilience
  • Marketing Logics and Strategizing
  • Customers and Relations
  • Business, Markets and Societal Dynamics

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Competition economics and service strategy - Service and customer-oriented management


Dive into the research topics of 'Reframing service innovation: COVID-19 as a catalyst for imposed service innovation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this