Mind to Market

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Blue Ocean Tide

Having heard the terms "Blue Ocean this, Red Ocean that," I thought I'd check to see what all the buzz is about and have been reading Kim and Mauborgne's "Blue Ocean Strategy." First, let me say that I am a confirmed believer in Clayton Christensen's excellent "The Innovator's" series and I think he's on to something. At least I haven't read anything previous to it that has explored the same area. But K&M are pitching essentially the same premise just with a different angle. One of their case studies even covers the same company.

The "Blue Ocean" K&M refer to is an uncontested, new market wide open to new entrants. Companies and entrepreneurs should seek out these Blue Oceans to introduce their products and services. But this is exactly what Christensen describes as a disruptive technology; one that enters an underserved market that currently has no other competitors. In fact, the "Blue Ocean" book is entering a "Red Ocean" market; a market already served by Christensen's books.

The secret to turning a dry academic tome into a best seller lies in engaging case studies; give the reader some real world examples that they can relate to. I'm a bit more forgiving of K&M since they did analyze a different set of companies although even here they duplicated Christensen by analyzing Southwest Airlines. If there is one differentiator between Christensen and K&M it's that Christensen seems to focus on U.S. companies and K&M have broadened their scope to include global companies.

Now the kicker: both Christensen's and K&M's books are published by the Harvard Business School Press. What's going on here? Is HBSP attempting to monopolize the world of innovation/new product books? Perhaps the market for these books is vastly underserved giving them a Blue Ocean to pump more books into?

The theories introduced by Christensen, even if they prove to be true, are not easily implemented and will take several management life-cycles to become accepted in the corporate world. Christensen's books will not appeal to everyone and even a great business book has a limited life span, therefore fresh approaches describing the same theories will be needed every year or so to spread the message. Nevertheless, the message is a valid one and does need to be conveyed to the business community.

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