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Book Review: "Blue Ocean Strategy", by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

I had first learned about “blue-ocean strategy” when talking with the VP of sales/marketing at my first company (one of the many things I learned while talking with him). I maintained this curiosity and decided to figure out where this all began by purchasing the seminal book on blue-ocean strategy.

It was a decently good read. Chan and Mauborgne discuss blue-ocean strategy in the context of existing firms that compete in red-ocean markets, and need to update their value chains and propositions to capture growth. For a smaller company, or a tech startup, whose very existence is defined by a blue-ocean go-to-market strategy, the book is probably less relevant.

Some pointers I got from this book:

  • Building alignment is extremely important: Alignment is hard to do. Organizational processes need to be fair, transparent, and empathetic for people and departments to invest in change. This is made harder if there is already momentum towards retaining the status quo.

  • Not all innovation requires capital expenditures: Sometimes, it’s recombining different pieces of already existing value propositions; sometimes, it’s changing the target audience. Chan and Mauborgne give the example of Cirque du Soleil as a blue ocean innovator in the circus space that executes well along these axes. In fact, Cirque du Soleil cut out a lot of traditional circus performers and focused on a few key acts, allowing them to get the top-of-market talent for those specific niches.

  • Continually pre-fetch information and use it to constantly look for new opportunities: No organization responsible for putting food on somebody’s table should be resting on their laurels. Understand what the market is like out there and what has changed since the last time you made an evaluation. Pan for gold nuggets of information, and use them to infuse existing blue oceans with better value propositions or create new blue oceans entirely.

This is one of those books where it’s better to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it. I might refer to this text occasionally, but I think there are more valuable texts related to sales/marketing specifically in the technology fields. This is highly informative for one’s philosophy, though.