Blue Ocean Strategy: Common Sense Individuality

Four years ago I interviewed one of the Blue Ocean Strategists Bill Kimbrell on a podcast.

Blue Ocean Strategy came out of the Insead School of Business. Blue Ocean Strategy is a book that speaks to the idea that there are blue oceans and there are red oceans.

Companies have long engaged in head-to-head competition in search of sustained, profitable growth. They have fought for competitive advantage, battled over market share, and struggled for differentiation.

And most notably the book gives a handful of examples of companies that have differentiated themselves by going completely outside of what is mainstream and popular. The book says:

….in today’s overcrowded industries, competing head-on results in nothing but a bloody “red ocean” of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool….while most companies compete within such red oceans, this strategy is increasingly unlikely to create profitable growth in the future.

The authors argue that tomorrow’s companies will succeed by creating “blue oceans of uncontested market space ripe for growth.”

My favorite example from the book was Cirque Du Soleil, who went completely outside the realm of what a circus was. Instead of competing with Barnum & Bailey, they caught on that people were becoming more educated about the animal cruelty that happens in the circus.

Cirques Du Soleil ditched what was mainstream and popular. They brought in human performers from the far corners of the world, Russia, Japan, the Ukraine–who could do things most people had never seen. Cirque Du Soleil branched out of the largely accepted definition of what “circus entertainment” could be. The producers used gorgeous music and borrowed from modern dance. We all know this story ended well–and continues to be written.

The lesson we can take from this book is the need to stop looking at what the other guys are doing. True innovation generally happens accidentally. While Blue Ocean Strategy wasn’t written in the age of social media, it’s much easier today to tell a few people about your idea/product. Once that happens, your small group of ambassadors can turn into much more at a faster rate than every before.

Instead of paying attention to what the other guy is doing, we should do what elates us. We should do what we’re good at. We should forget all the noise out there, and get really good at what’s going on “in here.” Learn to block the people out who are trying to distract you, or even sabotage you with distractions. That is not the path to success.

Blue Ocean Strategy is common sense. Create blue oceans by forgetting the noise that’s happening out there. Get focused and quiet “in here.”

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