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A critical analysis of service ecosystems research: rethinking its premises to move forward

Mekhail Mustak (Department of Marketing and Negotiation, IESEG School of Management , Paris, France and Department of Marketing and IB, Turun Kauppakorkeakoulu, Turku, Finland)
Loic Plé (Department of Management, IÉSEG School of Management , LEM-CNRS (UMR 9221), Lille, France)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 7 April 2020

Issue publication date: 19 June 2020




This study aims to examine the development of service ecosystems literature and its four premises as follows: the characterization of service ecosystems as loosely coupled systems, the existence of shared institutional arrangements among actors, the occurrence of resource-integrating interactions among actors and value co-creation as the stated purpose of service ecosystems.


With a systematic literature review, the paper identifies and analyzes 98 articles on service ecosystems. An examination and a cross-check of the central elements of the articles reveal gaps and limitations in the analysis of service ecosystems. These results lead to the formulation of four propositions and suggestions for further research.


The four premises of service ecosystems are constrained by overly optimistic perceptions that prevent theoretical advancements. These premises overlook possible tight coupling; power asymmetries; divergent interpretations of institutions and institutional arrangements; divergent interpretations of actors’ resource-integrating actions, intentions and abilities; and the co-destruction of value. Four propositions are formulated to address these challenges.

Research limitations/implications

The shortcomings reflect the systematic literature review, which only covers a specific area of the extant knowledge base, namely, English-language articles published in peer-reviewed international journals.


This study extensively and critically investigates the premises of service ecosystems for the first time, proposing a more holistic, dynamic and realistic understanding of them. In so doing, it paves the way for renewed conceptualizations of service ecosystems.



Mustak, M. and Plé, L. (2020), "A critical analysis of service ecosystems research: rethinking its premises to move forward", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 399-413.



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