It’s time for your strategic planning. Next month is January 2020. You have an incredible opportunity to dream, brainstorm and strategize for your next decade of business and sales growth. So there’s no better book to profile this month than ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’. The in-depth analysis of the requirements for strategic success will potentially have you rethinking everything you thought you needed for your business success in the coming decade.
One – What’s Special about this month’s book?
- ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ is a truly innovative manual that shows you (in the words of the sub-title) ‘how to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant’.
- With more than 3.5 million copies sold world-wide, ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ has been translated into 43 languages. This book is truly an international best seller – being on the bestseller lists for the Wall Street Journal, Businessweek and Fast Company.
Two – Book Details for ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’
Book Title – Blue Ocean Strategy
Author – W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
Publication Date – 2004, with the expanded edition published 2015
Publisher – Harvard Business Review Press
Three – Who are W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne?
- Chan Kim is Codirector of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute and The Boston Consulting Group Bruce D. Henderson Chair, as well as Professor of Strategy and International Management at INSEAD, France.
- Renee Mauborgne is the INSEAD Distinguished Fellow and a professor of strategy at INSEAD. She is also Codirector of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute.
- In other words, these highly qualified academics really know their stuff when it comes to strategic management.
Four – What is the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute (or IBOSI)?
- The academic hub of the Blue Ocean Strategy global community
- IBOSI was established in 2007 in Fontainebleau, France, by INSEAD as a result of the strong interest around the globe in tools and concepts in ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’.
Five – What is the book’s premise?
That lasting business success comes not from battling competitors but from creating ‘blue oceans’ – untapped new market spaces ripe for growth. It’s the authors’ mission to help you and your business ‘get out of a red ocean of bloody competition and into a blue ocean of uncontested market space characterized by new demand and strong profitable growth’ (see ‘Help, My Ocean Is Turning Red’ on page ix).
They go even further – outlining how they will deliver a model ‘to show how companies can avoid market-competing traps and achieve market-creating innovations’ (page xvi).
Whether you’re in a competitive market where some players risk going under, or just simply want to develop new products and services that truly serve your customers’ greatest needs – this is a book you’ll love to read.
Six – Does the book deliver on its premise?
This book doesn’t just deliver – Kim and Mauborgne make it their mission to ensure that we, as readers, are fully equipped with a framework to break through into uncontested market space for our businesses. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves (spanning more than 100 years across 30 industries), the authors analyse several well known entities (think Cirque du Soleil, Samsung Electronics, the US defense aerospace industry – and more) to illustrate how Blue Ocean Strategy creates phenomenal business breakthrough over and over again.
This is a very detailed book written in three parts. Part One outlines the key concepts and definitions of Blue Ocean Strategy:
‘Imagine a market universe composed of two sorts of oceans: red oceans and blue oceans. Red oceans represent all the industries in existence today. This is the known market space. Blue oceans denote all the industries not in existence today. This is the unknown market space.’ (see page 4)
If you’re in a red ocean, you’ll recognise this from the crowded marketplace where companies in cutthroat competition ‘try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of existing demand’ (see page 4). In other words, some companies don’t survive the vicious fight for survival that results in a bloody red ocean.
Blue Oceans are where it’s at, ‘defined by untapped market space, demand creation, and the opportunity for highly profitable growth’ (see page 4).
Part Two describes the four principles involved in formulating your Blue Ocean Strategy:
- Reconstruct Market Boundaries
- Focus on the Big Picture, Not the Numbers
- Reach Beyond Existing Demand
- Get the Strategic Sequence Right
How do you achieve this? ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ unpacks the detail to help you strategize your way into the Blue Ocean that you’ve been longing for.
Part Three guides you into executing on your Blue Ocean Strategy. The authors don’t just want you to create a pretty strategy that strokes your ego – they want to see you unleash real breakthrough in your business, and that requires action.
No strategy is complete without execution. A focus on execution is especially important, because Blue Ocean Strategy is new strategy, which means you could encounter some internal resistance. ‘People are required to step out of their comfort zones and change how they have worked in the past’ (see page 171). Getting your team onboard is a key part of your strategy’s successful execution.
Seven – What is the author’s voice like?
‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ is written by two highly intelligent academics who specialise in strategic business management. The authors’ voice is confident and caring, committed to ensuring that you really can execute on Blue Ocean Strategy in your business.
Kim and Mauborgne are academics. Every sentence punches and oozes insight that will make you want to stop and reflect on your own business. Be prepared to take several days to really read this book. You may even want to re-read it. This is not a one-hour skim-read. ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ is almost the ‘War and Peace’ of the business world, with several less pages.
Eight – Any memorable quotes?
Magnify memorable quotes would have to be the essential definitions of Red Oceans and the longed-for Blue Oceans:
When you enter Blue Oceans, ‘Competition is irrelevant because the rules of the game are waiting to be set’ (see pages 4-5).
In other words – go out into the uncharted waters of the Blue Ocean, stake your claim and get started.
You get to set the rules when you’re one of the first in the market.
Nine – What are some insights I can get from reading this book?
One of the best insights from ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ is the concept of ‘Value Innovation’ in Part One – ‘making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new and uncontested market space’ (see page 13).
Once you’ve got insights into a new opportunity, creating your Blue Ocean is not just about being first to market, but ‘about being the first to get it right by linking innovation to value’ (see page 218).
As the authors say – companies ‘caught’ in a red ocean are following ‘a conventional approach, racing to beat the competition by building a defensible position within the existing industry order’ (see pages 12-13). In looking at the competition, we risk becoming like the competition and losing the very edge that makes our business most attractive to our customers.
Just in case you’re tempted to simply look to your customers to create your Blue Ocean Strategy – read chapter five where the authors encourage us to ‘Reach Beyond Existing Demand’ by looking into the three tiers of ‘Noncustomers’. Check pages 106-115 for a deeper explanation of how these three tiers work.
Ten – Is Blue Ocean Strategy just ‘disruption’ by another name?
Let’s flip that question. Could ‘disruption’ be Blue Ocean Strategy by another name? (First published in 2004, the book ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ has been around for more than 15 years.)
One recent sales trend is the rise of the Customer Success Manager, tasked with ensuring that customers gain the most value from our products and services. This helps ensure that our business gain the maximum lifetime value from each customer, and that customers go on to become raving fans who promote your business to others.
So, it makes sense to get close to your customers.
As Steve Jobs said – ‘Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves’.
However, ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ makes a definite point that businesses gain ‘insights about reconstructing market boundaries not by looking at existing customers, but by exploring noncustomers’. (see page 216)
‘Noncustomers, not customers, hold the greatest insight into an industry’s pain points and points of intimidation that limit the size and boundary of the industry.’ (see page 216)
Eleven – Did the book live up to expectations?
Absolutely. In fact, this book exceeded expectations. ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ is a deep dive (no pun intended!) into creating strategies that really do help your business to succeed in a fast-moving world.
You don’t need a BCom to read ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’. The detailed concepts are carefully explained so that you can absorb and digest their meaning for your business, then go straight out and execute on your Blue Ocean Strategy. Which is exactly what the authors are really hoping you’ll do.
Twelve – Who would you recommend this book to?
- Business builders who want to do create innovative, new strategic directions for your business
- Business builders who want to think more deeply about opportunities in your industry so you can
- understand what those consultants you’ve hired are doing
- see your capability gaps, and understand how to plug those gaps to execute on your Blue Ocean Strategy
Thirteen – Who should buy this book?
- Business builders who are committed to innovation, which drives market share and sales for your business
- All those in product development who want to create innovative products and services that help your business to gain more customers
Fourteen – Where can I buy this book?
Fifteen – Recommended snacks to accompany reading this book?
‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ is a deeply intense read. Once you’ve got your copy, reserve the best beanbag at the family bach and prepare to park yourself for a week or two while you read and re-read.
You’ll need food that goes the distance. Get a large bowl of trail mix – almonds, long-thread coconut, dried apricots, sunflower seeds and a roughly-chopped block of Whittakers creamy milk 5-roll refined chocolate. And some freshly squeezed orange juice or your favourite craft beer!