Lifestyle | Culture & Books

February 21, 2011

Book: Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy is a business strategy book first published in 2005 and written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. The book illustrates what the authors believe is the high growth and profits an organization can generate by creating new demand in an uncontested market space, or a "Blue Ocean"
Blue Ocean Strategy's cover

Blue Ocean Strategy's cover

The book is divided into three parts: The first part presents key concepts of blue ocean strategy, including Value Innovation — the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost — and key analytical tools and frameworks such as the strategy canvas, the four actions framework and the eliminate-reduce-raise-create grid. The second part describes the four principles of blue ocean strategy formulation: how to create uncontested market space by reconstructing market boundaries, focusing on the big picture, reaching beyond existing demand and getting the strategic sequence right. These four formulation principles address how an organization can create blue oceans by looking across the six conventional boundaries of competition (Six Paths Framework), reduce their planning risk by following the four steps of visualizing strategy, create new demand by unlocking the three tiers of noncustomers and launch a commercially-viable blue ocean idea by aligning unprecedented utility of an offering with strategic pricing and target costing and by overcoming adoption hurdles. The book uses many examples across industries to demonstrate how to break out of traditional competitive (structuralist) strategic thinking and to grow demand and profits for the company and the industry by using blue ocean (reconstructionist) strategic thinking. The third and final part describes the two key implementation principles of blue ocean strategy including tipping point leadership and fair process. These implementation principles are essential for leaders to overcome the four key organizational hurdles that can prevent even the best strategies from being executed. The four key hurdles comprise the cognitive, resource, motivational and political hurdles that prevent people involved in strategy execution from understanding the need to break from status quo, finding the resources to implement the new strategic shift, keeping your people committed to implementing the new strategy, and from overcoming the powerful vested interests that may block the change.

In the book the authors draw the attention of their readers towards the correlation of success stories across industries and the formulation of strategies that provide a solid base create unconventional success — a strategy termed as “Blue Ocean Strategy”. Unlike the “Red Ocean Strategy”, the conventional approach to business of beating competition derived from the military organization, the “Blue Ocean Strategy” tries to align innovation with utility, price and cost positions. The book mocks at the phenomena of conventional choice between product/service differentiation and lower cost, but rather suggests that both differentiation and lower costs are achievable simultaneously.

The authors ask readers “What is the best unit of analysis of profitable growth? Company? Industry?” — a fundamental question without which any strategy for profitable growth is not worthwhile. The authors justify with original and practical ideas that neither the company nor the industry is the best unit of analysis of profitable growth; rather it is the strategic move that creates “Blue Ocean” and sustained high performance. The book examines the experience of companies in areas as diverse as watches, wine, cement, computers, automobiles, textiles, coffee makers, airlines, retailers, and even the circus, to answer this fundamental question and builds upon the argument about “Value Innovation” being the cornerstone of a blue ocean strategy. Value Innovation is necessarily the alignment of innovation with utility, price and cost positions. This creates uncontested market space and makes competition irrelevant. The following section discusses the concept behind the book in detail.

Read the book (pdf)

 

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