I recently discovered a book by co-directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute in Fontainebleau, France, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. Kim and Mauborgne were named the #1 Management Thinkers in the World in 2019. Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing—Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth follows their Blue Ocean Strategy, one of the bestselling business books of the century.
Published in 2017, among the reasons I feel this book is particularly valuable now, is that our experiences with COVID-19 force many of us to question previously held market assumptions while challenged to preserve our visions as businesses or nonprofits. One way this is currently manifesting itself is in the decisions that many of us face relating to whether to return our workforce intact to our buildings or continue all to work from home, or move to a hybrid model. The implications of these and other decisions impact how we continue to build a cohesive and effective team while fulfilling our missions. Blue Ocean Shift gives us a lens through which to contemplate whether or not to possibly shift away from, long-held marketing assumptions.
The authors characterize red oceans as “full of sharks,” with “cutthroat markets and bloody competition” compared to “blue oceans, or new markets devoid of competition.” They give many examples, drawn from 30 years of researching business, nonprofit, and government sectors, of organizations that created markets. Rather than competing in existing competition-saturated markets, these blue ocean sailors take another tact by first rejecting widely held, fundamental assumptions.
Among the many examples they give of a successful blue ocean shift particularly resonates with me–both because I have preschool grandchildren and I’m passionate about early childhood education. Children in 150 countries worldwide benefit from their television exposure to Sesame Street, with loveable characters that include Big Bird, Elmo, Bert and Ernie and other Muppets. These engaging characters teach preschoolers their colors, shapes, and alphabets in ways that are fun and imaginative. Sesame Street doesn’t replace any other sources of preschool education; instead, they complement them.
Kim and Mauborgne provide steps to achieving a blue ocean shift in ways that bring along your people and build their confidence in the process. Some of the steps in the process include choosing the right place to start, constructing the right team, uncovering hidden pain points, and discovering an ocean of noncustomers—all of which lead to reconstructing market boundaries and finalizing and launching the blue ocean move.Blue Ocean Strategy and Blue Ocean Shift teaching materials have been adopted by over 2,800 universities in over 100 countries across the globe, which makes me believe that there is something here to offer us. Let me know what you think! For more information on Blue Ocean Strategy and Blue Ocean Shift, please click here.