I was on vacation last week in Mexico. The beautiful blue ocean reminded me of one of the most useful business books I have ever read, Blue Ocean Strategy, written by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The main premise of the book is that most businesses find themselves competing in “red oceans”, markets in which companies and their offerings are very similar and profitable growth is all but impossible. Companies compete by offering more and better and are often forced to charge less. Sound familiar? A big part of this problem is that there are more products and companies chasing fewer customers. Supply is greater than demand. The bad news is this is not going to change; the good news is that the book offers strategies and perspectives that allow us to think about our businesses and customers in different ways and allows us to create “blue oceans” in which we don’t compete but make the competition irrelevant.
We assume that we must look at what our competition is doing and do it better. It’s difficult to offer great quality at a low price and stay in business for long. Conventional wisdom has been to find your niche and provide high quality or low service and low prices. Blue Ocean Strategy offers an alternative way to look at your market. Using a concept in the book called “the strategy canvas,” we can redefine our offerings based on what is really relevant and of value to our customers and eliminate what is not. This allows companies the ability to create relevant value and be the low cost provider while maintaining margins and growing.
The book offers many examples of businesses that have created blue oceans in red ocean markets: cinemas, retail stores, airlines, energy, computers, broadcasting, construction, automotive, steel, and even the Cirque du Soleil.