This dissertation explores how service design can support an organization’s strategic transition from product-centricity towards service-centricity. The processes used by organizations to adapt, respond to, and thrive in rapidly changing and increasingly complex operating environments are associated with the need to balance tensions between various competing demands. This research examines the case of an organization that has been delivering financial services and software products for more than 50 years and is now in the process of shifting its core strategy towards a service-centered approach. The changes in organizational routines, approaches, and ways of seeing and thinking, emerging with the shift from product- to service-centricity, can bring about various seemingly conflicting demands and disorienting tensions.
Guided by an action research approach, this study adopts a service design lens and integrates extant organizational and management research on competing demands and tensions. By doing so, this study aims to expand the understanding of service design within the context of organizational transitions. The study argues that the use of service design approaches can support a strategic transition through nurturing deliberate engagement with tensions as generative forces that highlight possibilities as well as potential pitfalls. By nurturing strategy articulation, strategic thinking, and strategic agility service design enables processes of tinkering with and navigating temporalities, supporting dialogue amongst diverse stakeholders, and breaking out of routines. This study offers granularity and nuance to how such processes can promote sensitivity and foster distancing from existing processes, thereby simultaneously easing and fueling the transition.