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The emergence of technology‐based service systems: A case study of a telehealth project in Sweden

Anna Essén (Stockholm University School of Business, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 13 March 2009



The purpose of this paper is to propose a framework for studying the process of technology‐based service system innovation from a broad perspective using an approach that elucidates the non‐linear facets of this process. The framework draws on Lévy‐Strauss's concept of bricolage, which implies that individuals' “making do with resources at hand,” as opposed to managerial visions, can trigger innovation. This concept is combined with the notion of technological drift and with a model of emergentism.


The paper uses case study data from the Swedish elderly homecare setting.


The findings illustrate how the emergence of technology‐based care services can be triggered by an injection of energy in terms of a new technological resource being made available in an organization, proceeding as a continuous interaction between personnel repurposing and recombining resources at hand, positive and negative feedback dynamics, institutional regulations and culture‐related stabilizing mechanisms.

Research limitations/implications

New services can arise as a result of a number of efforts and events that, in isolation, might appear insignificant. Taken together, and interacting with enabling and constraining forces that promote the emergence of certain new services and prevent others, such acts and events generate unpredictable outcomes. The result may be incremental but by no means trivial innovations.


The paper suggests an approach to innovation that complements conventional thinking in the new service development literature. The proposed framework can help to explain how and why certain new services emerge and why others do not in unexpected and unpredictable ways.



Essén, A. (2009), "The emergence of technology‐based service systems: A case study of a telehealth project in Sweden", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 98-121.



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