Blue Ocean Strategy


A Critique on Blue Ocean Strategy


Blue Ocean Strategy is a business strategy book by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne of The Blue Ocean Strategy Institute at INSEAD. The book illustrates what the authors believe is the high growth and profits an organization can generate by creating new demand in an uncontested market space, or a “Blue Ocean”, than by competing head-to-head with other suppliers for known customers in an existing industry.


The “Blue Oceans” metaphor appears to be designed to flatter rather than enlighten its audience. The book is pandering to its audience in the title to get us to read the rest of the stuff because there is no content that benefits the reader here so the goal must be to satisfy a yearly publication quota.


As you point out, grouping Southwest, Yellow Tail Wine and Cirque Du Soleil completely fails to reveal anything that is not painfully obvious. They choose the proof cases to make their point but fail to discuss any others which may be exceptions. 


The examples they have chosen do not necessarily illustrate their points. For example, Cirque du Soliel which started as a group of street artists in Montreal very clearly derives from the long French tradition of Circus. So why did something that existed for a very long time become a global success? And success did not come on a time scale any company I know could tolerate. They largely remained street performers, with the full economic implications of that lifestyle, for about a decade.


Once they began to get big, half the original cast left because they felt the troop had sold out. Who in Cirque du Soliel had the tenacity to continue through all this hardship and why? No “process” like the one described in the book fits their history. The Yellow Tail example looks absolutely nothing like Cirque du Soleil- it would seem more like the classic “Un-Cola” marketing play.

            Overall, the book left me with the impression that the intent was to offer a prescription for knocking off a certain type of success without revealing any indication of the real work behind it. I imagine the true stories of these companies are far more interesting than what the book portrays.



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