Abstraction is a powerful thing. During the 19th century, the industrial revolution was built on many powerful abstractions, such as mass, energy, work, and power. During the 20th century, the information revolution was built on many powerful abstractions, such as binary digit or bit, binary coding, and algorithmic complexity. Here, we propose an abstraction that will be important to the service revolution of the 21st century: the service system, which is a configuration of people, technologies, and other resources that interact with other service systems to create mutual value. Many systems can be viewed as service systems, including families, cities, and companies, among many others. In this paper, we show how the service-system abstraction can be used to understand how value is created, in the process unifying concepts from many disciplines and creating the foundation for an integrated science of service.
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