Deciding to engage a progress proposition

Service Engagement Decision

Understanding why and how a progress seeker decides to engage with a progress proposition – the engagement decision process – is critical to unlocking growth and innovation. Knowing the hurdles, for example, gives us a zone for innovation to reduce them.

Comfortingly, our engagement decision process builds on top of the progress decision process. It is still a two-phase process. The first phase is to decide to engage. Then there are continuous decisions to keep engaging. And these decisions are still based on progress seekers’ unique and phenenological determinations:

  1. of amounts of progress achieved and potential progress (which may be interpreted as value)
  2. that the “lack of seeker resources” hurdle is low enough

However, there are two differences:

  • engaging is a two-party decision, and so the progress helper may decide progress (value) is compromised and so cease engagement
  • there are five additional hurdles
Progress propositions introduce five additional hurdles to the engagement decision process (making six in total). Innovation should be applied to minimise these hurdles. Click To Tweet

Four of these additional hurdles relate to characteristics of the proposition – adoptability, resistance, mismatch on service-service continuum, and seeker’s confidence. The fifth additional hurdle is the more intellectually challenging. It has to do with price. However, in the progress economy, this is disconnected from value.

Let’s dig in with some detail.

Proposition engagement decision

Here, then, is the engagement decision process.

Service Engagement Decision
Progress Proposition Engagement Decision

We inherit the two decisions phases from our progress decision process:

  1. the decision to start engaging with a particular progress proposition in an attempt to make progress. 
  2. further decisions to carry on engaging with a particular progress proposition in the attempt to make further progress towards progress sought.

This process, like the one we’re building on, is closely similar to Rogers’ innovation adoption process. This is consistent with, and suggests why, our view in the progress economy that innovation is not an afterthought. Rather, it is the core operations.

OK, next we’ll look at these two phases in turn.

start decision

The progress seeker’s first decision is whether to start attempting to make progress or not with a specific progress proposition. And this boils down to two things. 

First, whether they believe they will be able to make sufficient progress with that proposition. That is, they phenomenologically see enough potential progress. Secondly, the progress seeker must feel the barriers to engaging are sufficiently low. We’ll describe these barriers in detail shortly. But here is a list of them:

  • Lack of seeker resource
  • Adoptability
  • Resistance
  • Mis-alignment on service-service continuum
  • Confidence in progress helper’s proposition
  • Gaining required service credits (rather too simplistically: price)]

What if a seeker decides not to engage with a specific proposition? Well, circumstances could change, leading them to later change their minds and decide to start engaging. Alternatively they may chose to engage another progress proposition. Or decide to do nothing for that particular progress sought.

Let’s say they’ve decided to start. Next they will make continuous decisions on whether the continue.

continue decisions

As the progress seeker attempts to make progress, they will regularly make choices to continue or abandon their attempt. There are no limitations on when progress seekers make these decisions. However, the natural decision points are at the end of each activity in the process of making progress.

As they make progress, the progress seeker must continuously decide whether to carry on or give up. The are no limitations on the timing of these decisions. Although the natural points are at the end of each activity in the process of making progress.

At each decision point, they uniquely and phenomenologically decide if:

  • there has been sufficient achieved progress – how far have they got
  • there is sufficient potential progress remaining – can they still get to their desired state (though this may, as we’ll see, evolve)
  • the hurdles to engaging continue to be sufficiently low

A positive determination sees the progress seeker continue their attempt of making progress until their next decision point.

Whereas a negative determination would see them abandon the attempt. This could be due to disenchantment discontinuance. Where they have decided not enough progress is being made and/or is likely to be made in the future. Or one or more of the hurdles has become too high.

Or, the seeker decides that attempt to make progress with a different progress proposition looks more advantageous. We call this replacement discontinuance.

Progress sought may evolve

As we saw in the progress decision process, the seeker has more information available to them at the end of each activity. This comes both as a result of carrying out the activity as well as arising from external sources during the activity duration.

This new information can lead to a progress seeker evolving their view of progress sought. And so their determination of progress – achieved and potential – as well as the six hurdles to engagement. As a result, the outcome of their decision may be affected.

Progress proposition owner may terminate the service

In our underlying service-dominant logic there is the following foundational premise:

Value is uniquely and phenomenologically determined by the beneficiary

service-dominant logic foundational premise #6

Which makes sense when understanding that the creators were trying to move the marketing narrative on from value-in-exchange (where manufacturers determine value and indicate that through price). 

However, in the progress economy we see value as an emergent property. One that emerges when progress seekers evaluate progress achieved and potential progress. It is a subjective measure of progress.

Since progress is a joint endeavour, it is natural that the progress helper also forms a subjective view of progress. And if they see progress is being hampered by the seeker (mis-use of resource, for example, which is one case of value co-destruction) then they could cease engagement.

So, for the progress economy, we must update our view to say:

the amount of progress (of which value is a subjective measure) is overwhelmingly and phenomenologically determined by each progress seeker individually. 

however, progress helpers do also judge progress, although this is often less visible.

if either party sees the other party hindering progress (value co-destruction) they may decide to attempt to fix the destruction or ultimately cease engaging in the attempt to make further progress

Now I think we’re ready to jump into looking at the six hurdles to engagement.

The six hurdles to progress

There are six hurdles to progress when a progress proposition is involved. And a seeker needs to uniquely and phenomenologically determine they are sufficiently low enough for then to start, and continue, engaging.

The 6 hurdles to engaging that need minimising are:

* Lack of seeker resource

* Adoptability of offered service mix and/or proposed activities

* Resistance to offered service mix and/or proposed activities

* Mis-alignment of offered service mix on the service-service continuum

* Confidence in progress helper’s proposition

* Seeker’s effort required elsewhere to gain asked for service credits (rather too simplistically: price)

We inherit the first hurdle from the progress decision process. Where we saw that lack of progress seeker resources is a hurdle to making progress.

Engagement Decision tool
Compare the progress decision and engagement decision processes

And, of course, the point of a progress proposition is to supplement the resources of the progress seeker. The intention being to minimise this first hurdle. However, in offering a particular service mix and proposing a series of activities, we introduce four new hurdles.

These new hurdles are adoptability of, resistance to, and confidence in the service mix and proposed activities. As well as mismatch of the proposition on the service-service continuum

Finally, the sixth hurdle relates to how we see price in the progress economy. Since we remove value-in-exchange thinking, price is no longer attached to value.

It’s important to note that as progress is made, the progress seeker’s perspective on these obstacles may change. Either in a positive or negative sense. That’s why the evaluation of them is part of the continuous decisions.

lack of seeker resources

Propositions aim to reduce the original hurdle of lack of seeker resources. But sometimes they do not do so enough for a seeker. And they can even lift the need for other resource (skills and knowledge) that seeker does not posess.

The main contributor to a progress seeker not starting, or abandoning, an attempt to make progress is lack of resource. That is, they don’t feel they have the skills or competence to make progress.

And whilst a progress proposition intends to minimise this hurdle, through supplementing seekers resources with a service mix, there can still be a gap. If you remember, our progress zip tool shows us progress is made through integrating seeker and helper resources in most activities.

Progress Zip Tool
Progress Zip Tool

It’s possible that the offering doesn’t supplement enough. This circumstance is not unusual. And it arises as a result of the uniqueness of seekers and the more general nature of progress propositions.

Customizing the mix for each seeker is one of the potential resolutions. Though this is often easier for large b2b propositions than for smaller more numerous b2c propositions. Despite Vargo & Lush noting:

The normative marketing goal should be customization rather than standardization.

Vargo & Lush (2004) “The Four Service Marketing Myths”

Alternatively, the helper could try educating the seeker or using resources obtained by the seeker in other markets/industries. In the worst-case scenario, the helper can only hope that the gap is not too large.

Additionally, there is a risk that the offered service mix will force the seeker to need resources they had not previously thought of/needed.

Enabling services – on the service-service continuum – offer a good example of this risk. These kinds of propositions rely on seekers possessing skills and knowledge that a comparable relieving service does not. It’s possible that whilst the mix can enable the seeker, the seeker is unknowledgeable/unskilled in being able to integrate with it.

Offering me a subscription service of an aircraft that I can fly in order to meet my functional progress of getting from point A to point B is only useful to me if I have a pilots licence.

adoptability of service mix and/or proposed activities

a progress seeker needs to be aware of and able to see themselves using the service mix and being able to perform the necessary activities

We leverage another of Rogers innovation tools now. He identified several factors that speed up innovation adoption. And we co-opt them as variables improving a seeker’s likelihood of engaging a proposition.

A seeker needs to be aware of and see themselves using the service mix and being able to perform the necessary activities.

Here are the factors that Rogers listed in ”Diffusion of Innovations”:

Rogers’ factors that affect adoption speed of innovation.
We repurpose these as factors affecting the adoption hurdle

We can think of them in descending order of influence the progress helper has:

  1. perceived attributes
  2. communication channels / nature of social system
  3. extent of change promoters efforts / type of innovation decision

The perceived attributes of the progress proposition – relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability and observability – is where a progress helper typically has most influence.

But let’s be careful though. One market’s positive perceived attributes can be another’s negatives. It relates to progress sought. For most adults, the interface of Snap, the photo sharing app, is complex and not a relative advantage. However, teenage users enjoy it, not least because it keeps Mum and Dad from joining.

Adoptability is towards your target market – the group of progress seekers with sufficiently similar progress sought. This might make it less adoptable by other markets. However that might be a plus to your target market. Progress… Click To Tweet

We can have some effect over the social system’s communication channels/nature – how a progress seeker learns about and understands your proposition (service mix and proposed activities).

Are you adapting your marketing based on the progress seeker’s adopter type? For example Rogers’ adopter types such as are innovators, the early majority, laggards, etc. Do you need to cross Moore’s chasm? Can you leverage influencers, or Gladwell’s connectorsmavens and salesmen, or network topography in general? I’ve more on this over here.

The extent of change promoters efforts and the types of innovation decision are two areas where the progress helper has less influence. Using a new progress proposition means change. And we know change is difficult.

At present, asking me to turn on my apartments mini-nuclear reactor to provide my power supply is not something I can envisage myself doing. Even if back in 1963 Sweden was seemingly heading that way. But this example brings us to the next hurdle – resistance.

resistance to service mix and/or proposed activities

a progress seeker shouldn’t feel the need to postpone, reject, or even protest against a progress proposition

Think back to the last example of local nuclear power plants. And contrast that against the substantial resistance in previous years against nuclear power. For a proposition to be engaged, it needs to invoke minimal resistance in the progress seeker.

And, in a sense, I believe resistance is a missing attribute in Rogers’ original list. However, we’ll include it in the progress economy.

In “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents“, Kleijnen et al identified several factors that lead to resistance.

Kleijnen et al’s factors involved in resistance to innovations.
We repurpose them as factors involved in the resistance hurdle

They also proposed a useful hierarchy of resistance – postponement, rejection and opposition. And showed which factors typically led to which type of resistance.

Progress helpers need to ensure their service mix and proposed activities will minimise generating resistance in the progress seeker (and potentially wider). The first version of Google glass, for example, could be seen as not having minimised traditions & norms; and subsequently social risks.

Although it has to be appreciated some resistance will come from groups that would not be considered progress seekers. And that is likely out of the control of individual progress helpers.

You can find some interesting examples of resistance on this page. Including more on the first edition of Google Glass; a full body drier similar to Dyson hand driers; electric cars; coffee and looms. It’s not a new challenge.

mis-alignment of service mix and/or proposed activities on the service-service continuum

there’s limited help in offering an enabling service when the seeker is looking for a relieving service; or vice-versa.

According to our service-service continuum, propositions fall somewhere between enabling and relieving propositions. And when seekers look to make progress with a proposition, they have a preconceived notion of whether they want to be enabled or relieved.

Service-Service Continuum tool
The Service-Service Continuum tool showing a continuum from enabling to relieving propositions along with some examples of impacts on functional and non-functional progress depending on offer positioning on the continuum.

A mismatch between what the seeker wants in terms of enabling to relieving and what is offered is a hurdle to engagement. The greater the distance on the continuum, the greater the challenge.

For example, an offering that is closer to the enabling proposition end of the continuum than sought could be seen by the seeker as requiring too much of their effort. Or it’s too complicate. Or perhaps uses old technology.

Whereas an offering closer to the relieving proposition end than sought could be seen by the seeker as them having a lack of control. Or maybe it doesn’t help them fulfil a sense of self-achievement they are seeking.

“It’s too much effort” / “It takes away my sense of achievement” – two of several issues you may find when offerings are mismatched on the service-service continuum to seekers desires. Click To Tweet

We’ve only touched on a few non-functional progress aspects that helpers could trample on by providing a mismatched offering on the continuum. There are more to consider.

Another thing to be aware of, is that the seeker learns more about the proposition as they progress. Because of this living experience, their perception of this hurdle’s height evolves. This brings us neatly to the next hurdle, which starts with lived, rather than living, experience – confidence.

confidence in proPosition

a progress seeker should have confidence that the progress proposition (and progress helper) can help them make the progressed offered

Seekers must have confidence that an offering will assist them in making progress. In both the actual proposition and in the helper. And this usually starts based on the seeker’s individual lived experience.

That’s to say, prior interactions with the helper and/or offering, or similar offering, can provide confidence. And if they are now attempting to make same progress again with same helper, this is what Christensen’s job to be done theory calls a little hire.

Confidence could also result from making progress in other areas with the same assistant. In that case, we’re talking about branding and brand extension.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. Poor helper experience reduces a seeker’s future confidence.

And while making progress, one’s confidence can rise or fall. This emphasises the importance of continuous communication.

seeker’s effort required elsewhere to gain asked for service credits

a progress seeker needs to feel they are not being asked to perform too much effort (service) elsewhere in order to gain the asked for service credits to engage a progress proposition

Finally, we’ll arrive at our sixth, and last, hurdle. Very (very) simplistically we can call and consider it price. But we must remember that in the progress economy price is no longer a measure of value. We have no value-in-exchange moment. Rather, price is a signal of effort.

And this comes from service-dominant logic. In particular:

Service is the fundamental basis of exchange

Indirect exchange masks the fundamental basis of exchange

Foundational premises  and 2 of service dominant logic

These premises can be unpacked as follows. First, rather than exchanging cash for outputs, we exchange services. You do something for me, and I do something for you. However, our world is not always as straightforward. You may do something for me, such as work in my company, but you do not require the services of my company. You do, however, want to hire a cleaning service for your apartment. However, the cleaner does not require any service from you. And so forth.

This indirect exchange needs to be made enabled. Differences in the size of efforts applied, as well as when they occur, must be managed. We do this through service credits, which are fungible promises of future service. And the most common method of implementing service credits? Presently it is cash.

Though we have many different types of service credits – IOUs, private tallying among friends, in-kind payments, blockchain implementations, and so on. And cash is being replaced by digital numbers that are passed from digital ledger to digital ledger.

So, price signals the service credits required. And that has two interpretations. First, for the helper It is the amount of service credits required for the entity/ecosystem to survive (including spare credits (profit)). Second, it is the effort that the seeker must expend in service elsewhere in order to obtain the necessary service credits.

Requiring the seeker to expend too much effort to get credits increases this hurdle.

Lowering this hurdle, like the other 5 hurdles, is a zone for innovation. It could be market innovation – targeting a market that has spare service credits. But more likely it is innovation to either reduce the number of credits and/or reduce the emotion attached to amount of service credits. Here we start thinking about business model innovation. subscription services. freemium. sponsored. family sharing etc. frictionless. wide selection of methods. advertising.

Whilst the general intention would be to lower this hurdle to the minimum, there are two considerations as to why we may not.

higher ”price”

To minimise this hurdle would mean to require the number of service credits from the seeker that are required from the helper by the constituent parts of the offering. The ecosystem partners or even internal departments. This is the survivability part of the definition of progress proposition. And within that reasoning, there’s no reason why entities cannot seek to make profit. Which is really an excess of service credits that will be used later (research activities, distributed to investors (loaners of service credits) etc)

And we might want to increase this hurdle to reflect aspects of non-functional progress. Exclusivity, for example, might be a rationale behind a price higher than the survivability clause.

I’m not intending to explain every aspect of economics through the progress economy. But it’s reassuring that these two important aspects fit in the progress model. Of interest, we can also use the reasoning of Williamson and transaction costs to determine when best to have components of offer inside or outside an entity.

Wrapping Up

So to conclude, the seeker’s decision around engaging a proposition is a unique and phenomenological one. Comfortingly the engagement decision process builds on the progress decision process. It has the same two phases: to start and to continue making progress. And is based upon their determination of progress and the height of hurdles to engagement.

Engagement Decision tool
Engagement Decision tool

We visualise it as a balance between judgements of progress and the hurdles, since a seeker may accept a higher hurdle for better progress.

The difference is that we find 5 additional hurdles. And that the progress helper also judges amounts of progress made. Though that is less visible, and usually is only used by them if the observe value co-destruction occurring. That is to say, for example, that the seeker is misusing offered resources.

Knowing the engagement decision process is a key input into actionable innovation. We should innovate to minimise the hurdles.


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