Book Review: Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market

Reviewer: Deborah Gillam, The University of Auckland

W Chan Kim is the Boston Consulting Group, Bruce Henderson Chair, Professor of Strategy and International Management at INSEAD, France. Renée Mauborgne is the INSE AD Distinguished Fellow and a Professor of Strategy and Management at INSE AD, France. Both co-authors are advisory members for the European Union. Why Blue Ocean? The authors describe the most commonly used approach to business strategy, Porter’s evaluation of competitors and their products, as producing strategies enabling them to continue to be competitive in the same oceans, red with the blood of competitive feeding frenzies. In contrast, Blue Ocean is about creating business strategies where there is no competition – the strategy makes the competition irrelevant. Blue Ocean Strategy is the result of a study of 150 strategic moves covering more than 30 industries over 100 years. With Blue Ocean the strategic focus moves from competitors to non-competitors and customers to non-customers. It takes a value innovation approach to strategy embracing the company’s whole structure, enabling the players to set the market boundaries and industry structures. This book was an easy and compelling read which convinced me that creating blue ocean strategies is the only real way for businesses to make significant leaps forward. The authors give clear information on how to create and execute blue ocean strategies. Their frameworks and tools are clearly presented and easily understood along with diagrams displaying essential information for clarity, reference and training.

The book gives many examples and analyses of successful blue ocean strategies along with their strategy canvases, including one of the most dramatic results of today - Cirque du Soleil. This company took the best of the circus and theatre industries and created a whole new entertainment industry – challenging conventional strategy practices. There were no competitors to consider in the strategy, only the distant external environments it wished to play in and the rules which would impact this new industry. This was strategy making at its very best, but had Cirque du Soleil followed Porter’s method then it would have ended up as an ‘also ran’ in an existing industry, fighting against existing competitors. Today it is a market leader defining the rules in its industry.

Why consider using Blue Ocean as a strategy? Businesses are in a constant battle today to gain a small advantage over competitors. They need new and different approaches to strategy-making to make huge leaps forward, rather than just incremental improvements in their existing industry. The tools and frameworks in this book can assist managers in moving their businesses into blue oceans and leave their existing competitors behind - to make a real difference. I would highly recommend buying this book. The many success stories are a good incentive alone to buy it. Added to this it is easy reading, including a good layout with clear frameworks, techniques and diagrams, making this book a good tool for business students, lecturers, and business managers wanting to make a difference in their business environments.