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Should we cooperate? Game theory insights for servitization
Journal of Service Management  (IF11.768),  Pub Date : 2021-08-12, DOI: 10.1108/josm-11-2020-0430
Scott Wagstaff, Jamie Burton, Judy Zolkiewski


An abundance of literature suggests that organisations adopting a cooperative approach achieve greater rewards than those that act in opposition or isolation. An emerging body of work also highlights the multiple actors involved in servitization. Despite this, in some contexts the benefits of servitization are not apparent. This paper examines business relationships in the oil industry and how they affect levels of servitization.


A mixed method study employing qualitative and quantitative methods was used to fully explore the context. In the quantitative phase, 48 oil industry specialists responded to a scenario based on game theory. This aimed to determine if the relationships between their respective organisations are cooperative or adversarial. Abduction drove a second qualitative phase. This consisted of a series of semi-structured interviews used to explore the servitization level and influence of servitization on relationships and vice versa.


The statistical results suggest that all parties used adversarial strategies despite the publicised intent to work cooperatively. The interviews suggested that increasing (decreasing) servitization could increase (decrease) cooperation and, in turn, value co-creation but revealed nuances to this effect. It also adds to our understanding of the darker side of servitization by illustrating the impact of mimetic isomorphism.


The findings add to understanding of the complex dynamics around servitization by showing that it is only at advanced levels of servitization that cooperative behaviour is observed, and base and intermediate levels result in non-cooperative behaviour and thus illustrate the importance of adopting a multi-actor lens to explore servitization.