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How to Leave the Competition Behind by Mastering a Blue Ocean Strategy for Business Growth and Value

Race Car Winning

Introduction to Blue Ocean Strategy


In the competitive business world, traditional strategies often revolve around battling competitors for market share within established industries. This relentless competition creates what is known as a “red ocean” – a marketplace where rivals fight over a shrinking profit pool, leading to a bloody battle of attrition where only the strongest survive. However, an alternative approach can lead businesses away from these shark-infested waters to more serene and profitable seas: the Blue Ocean Strategy.


The Blue Ocean Strategy, a strategy coined by Professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, esteemed researchers and educators from the Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires (INSEAD), encourages businesses to shift their focus from competition to creation. Instead of vying for dominance in overcrowded industries, this strategy advocates venturing into new, uncontested market spaces – the “blue oceans.” These are markets free of competition, where the game's rules are yet to be set, offering vast opportunities for growth and profitability.


But why is this strategy crucial for businesses today? In an era where differentiation is critical and markets are rapidly changing, the ability to step into a blue ocean can be the difference between thriving and merely surviving. It's about reimagining boundaries, reinventing market spaces, and redefining industries. The Blue Ocean Strategy opens a realm of possibilities, allowing businesses to create their own market space untethered from the intense competition of existing markets.


When I reflect on the businesses that I have advised, consulted, and led over the years, the most successful results came from the creation and execution of a strategy grounded in value-driven innovation. Some of this work predates my introduction to the work of Professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, and looking back, the companies, products, or service offerings that made a big market impact all had characteristics aligned with a Blue Ocean Strategy. 


As we delve deeper into the Blue Ocean Strategy in this article, we'll explore its principles, how it differs from traditional competitive strategies, and the transformative impact it can have on a business. It's time to navigate away from the red ocean's cutthroat competition and sail towards the vast, open blue ocean of opportunity.


What is the Blue Ocean Strategy?


At its core, the Blue Ocean Strategy represents a paradigm shift in how businesses approach market competition. Traditionally, companies have strived to outperform their rivals in existing markets, constantly battling for a larger share of an already established customer base. This competitive landscape, characterized by fierce rivalry and incremental gains, is what the Blue Ocean Strategy terms as a “red ocean.” In such oceans, the market boundaries are defined and accepted, and the competitive rules of the game are known.


Enter the Blue Ocean Strategy, a concept that challenges these conventional market norms. It's not about joining the fray but creating a new playing field. This strategy encourages businesses to stop competing in overcrowded markets and create new market spaces or “blue oceans.” In these uncharted waters, competition is rendered irrelevant because the game's rules are waiting to be established.


The fundamental principle of the Blue Ocean Strategy is “value innovation.” Unlike the traditional approach, which makes a trade-off between value and cost, value innovation focuses on breaking this trade-off. It's about creating enhanced value for the company and its customers, leading to new demand and opportunities for highly profitable growth. This approach doesn't rely on technological breakthroughs; instead, it reconfigures existing market elements in novel ways, creating a leap in value for consumers and the company.


Blue Ocean Strategy is not just a theory. It's grounded in a decade-long study of over 150 strategic moves spanning over 30 industries. This extensive research underscores the practical applicability and success of the strategy across different sectors and business contexts. By adopting this strategy, businesses can unlock new demand, explore untapped market spaces, and drive sustainable growth and profitability.


In the following sections, we'll delve into how businesses can identify and create these uncontested market spaces, accompanied by real-world examples that illustrate the transformative power of the Blue Ocean Strategy.


Identifying and Creating Uncontested Market Spaces


Identifying and creating uncontested market spaces is pivotal in implementing the Blue Ocean Strategy. This process begins with the understanding that not all market spaces are crowded and competitive. Potential markets, or “blue oceans,” exist that are ripe for innovation. But how does a business identify and create these new market spaces?


Reshaping Market Boundaries


The first step is to look beyond the existing industry boundaries and understand that the limits are often self-imposed. Businesses should explore new customer segments, new user experiences, and different ways of delivering products or services. This exploration involves a shift in perspective – from focusing on beating the competition to making the competition irrelevant.


Developing an effective Blue Ocean Strategy relies on applying targeted tools and frameworks designed to guide the process.


These include the Strategy Canvas, Four Actions Framework, 6 Paths Framework, 3 Tiers of Noncustomers, and Buyer Utility Map.  We will highlight one of the most important, the Four Actions Framework.


The Four Actions Framework (ERRC)


Central to the Blue Ocean Strategy is the Four Actions Framework, which consists of four essential actions: Eliminate, Reduce, Raise, and Create (ERRC). This framework provides a powerful tool to systematically consider how to reconstruct market elements to create new value.


  1. Eliminate: Determine which factors the industry takes for granted that should be eliminated. These could be elements that no longer add value or are irrelevant to consumers.

  2. Reduce: Identify the factors that should be reduced well below the industry's standard. This step helps to cut costs and streamline operations, making the offering more competitive.

  3. Raise: Consider which factors should be raised well above the industry's standard. Raising these factors creates enhanced value for the consumer and helps differentiate the offering.

  4. Create: Determine what new factors should be created that the industry has never offered. This step is about innovation – introducing new elements that create new value for consumers and open up new market space.


By applying the ERRC framework, companies can systematically explore new ways of delivering value, leading to the identification of blue oceans.


In the next section, we will explore more real-world examples of companies that successfully implemented the Blue Ocean Strategy, illustrating its practical application and transformative potential.


Real-World Examples of Winning Blue Ocean Strategy


The actual test of any business theory lies in its real-world application. The Blue Ocean Strategy, focusing on creating new market spaces, has been successfully implemented by various companies across different industries. These examples illustrate the strategy's effectiveness and provide valuable insights and lessons.


Netflix: Revolutionizing Home Entertainment


Netflix is a prime example of a company that created a blue ocean by redefining the home entertainment industry. Initially, Netflix entered the market with an online DVD rental service, a significant shift from the traditional brick-and-mortar rental stores like Blockbuster. This innovation addressed major customer pain points: late fees and return deadlines. Netflix's flat-fee, no-late-fee model offered customers a more convenient and cost-effective way to rent movies. The company later transitioned to online streaming, further strengthening its position in a new market space and making traditional rental services obsolete.


Uber: Transforming Urban Mobility


Uber's entry into the transportation industry is another example of a blue ocean strategy. Before Uber, the primary option for private transportation was a taxi, which had remained unchanged for decades. Uber introduced a technology-driven approach that connected drivers with passengers via a mobile app, offering convenience, ease of payment, and improved service quality. This innovation created a new market space and transformed urban mobility, making traditional taxi services less relevant in many cities.


iTunes: Pioneering Digital Music Sales


Apple's iTunes significantly transformed the music industry by offering a legal platform for digital music downloads. This move addressed the rampant illegal music downloads and changed how music was purchased and consumed. iTunes allowed consumers to buy individual songs instead of entire albums, catering to the growing demand for digital music and creating a new market space in the music industry.


These examples demonstrate the transformative power of the Blue Ocean Strategy. By stepping out of the red ocean of intense competition and creating new market spaces, these companies achieved remarkable success and altered the landscape of their respective industries.


The following section will discuss a business's challenges when adopting the Blue Ocean Strategy and strategies to overcome them.


Challenges and Strategies for Overcoming Them in Blue Ocean Strategy


While the Blue Ocean Strategy offers a compelling business growth and innovation framework, implementing it is challenging. Understanding these obstacles and developing strategies to overcome them is crucial for businesses looking to navigate the blue oceans successfully.


Identifying the Right Blue Ocean


One of the primary challenges is identifying the optimum uncontested market space. Not all attempts to create a blue ocean will be successful. Businesses must conduct thorough market research, understand customer needs, and evaluate the potential of new market spaces. This involves a shift from a competition-focused mindset to a customer-centric approach.


Overcoming Organizational Inertia


Organizational inertia can be a significant barrier. Many companies are accustomed to competing within established market rules and may resist the change in strategic direction. Overcoming this requires strong leadership, a clear vision, and effective communication to align the organization with the new strategy.


Balancing Innovation with Practicality


Another challenge is balancing the pursuit of innovation with practical execution. While innovating, companies must ensure that the new value proposition is operationally viable and financially sustainable. This balance can be achieved by focusing on core competencies while exploring new opportunities.


Strategies for Overcoming Challenges


  1. Continuous Market Research: Regularly conduct market research to stay ahead of industry trends and identify emerging blue ocean opportunities.

  2. Foster a Culture of Innovation: Cultivate an organizational culture that embraces change and encourages innovative thinking.

  3. Iterative Approach: Implement the strategy in stages, allowing for adjustments and learning from initial outcomes.

  4. Customer Engagement: Engage with customers to gain insights into their evolving needs and preferences, ensuring that the new market space aligns with customer demand.

  5. Effective Leadership and Communication: Strong leadership is critical to navigating the transition. Clear and consistent communication about the strategy’s vision, goals, and progress helps gain organizational buy-in.


By recognizing and strategically addressing these challenges, businesses can enhance their chances of successfully implementing the Blue Ocean Strategy and achieving sustainable growth and profitability in new market spaces.


The next section will provide actionable steps for businesses applying the Blue Ocean Strategy.


Putting it All Together - Actionable Steps for Businesses Implementing Blue Ocean Strategy


Adopting the Blue Ocean Strategy requires a systematic approach and thoughtful planning. Here are a few actionable steps businesses can follow to implement this strategy and explore new market spaces successfully.  To maximize results by learning and applying the full strategy framework, please take a moment to read the work and review the resources developed by Professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne referenced at the end of this article,


Step1 - Conduct Comprehensive Market Research


  • Start with extensive research to understand current market trends, customer needs, and potential opportunities for innovation.

  • Analyze existing competitors and the boundaries of current market spaces. 


Step 2 -   Develop a Vision for the Blue Ocean


  • Define what the new market space looks like and what value it will offer.

  • Establish clear objectives and goals for the business's goals with this strategy.


Step 3 - Apply the Four Actions Framework (ERRC)


  • Use the Eliminate, Reduce, Raise, Create a framework to innovate and redefine market elements.

  • Focus on value innovation to create a new market space that offers unique value.


Step 4 - Create a Strategic Business Plan


  • Develop a detailed plan outlining how the business will enter and establish itself in the new market.

  • Include strategies for marketing, operations, financial planning, and risk management.


Step 5 - Build a Culture of Innovation


  • Foster an organizational culture that supports creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking.

  • Encourage employee involvement in the innovation process and value their insights.


Step 6 - Test and Refine the Strategy


  • Implement the strategy in phases, starting with a pilot or a small-scale launch.

  • Collect data and feedback and be prepared to make adjustments based on real-world performance.


Step 7 - Execute with Strong Leadership and Effective Communication


  • Strong leadership is essential to guide the organization through the transition.

  • Maintain open and transparent communication with all stakeholders to build trust and gain support.


Step 8 - Continuously Monitor and Adapt


  • Regularly review the market and the business’s performance in the new space.

  • Be agile and ready to adapt the strategy to market changes and new insights.


Following these steps, businesses can navigate the journey from red oceans of fierce competition to the blue oceans of uncontested market space, driving growth and innovation.

Want to Learn More


Blue Ocean success is not new, and businesses throughout the long history of world commerce have applied the principles to become market leaders and change agents.  

What is new is that W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors at INSEAD [1], introduced a formal framework and tools backed by research to help create a repeatable value-driven innovation process. Then, they shared it with the world through their best-selling books “Blue Ocean Strategy” [2], “Blue Ocean Shift”[3], and through the many online tools available through the Blue Ocean Strategy website [5].


The Blue Ocean Strategy website also offers an online course and certified practitioner program to reinforce and help forward-thinking leaders refine their expertise and knowledge in applying a Blue Ocean strategy. 


If you would like to find a better path to growth and success, please reach out, and we can discuss how I can help get you where you need to go!


References and Citations


  1. INSEAD. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from

  2. Kim, W. C., & Mauborgne, R. (2015). Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant (Expanded ed.). Harvard Business Review Press.

  3. Kim, W. C., & Mauborgne, R. (2017). Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing - Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth. Hachette Books.

  4. Kim, W. C., & Mauborgne, R. (n.d.). Blue Ocean Strategy. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from


Cover image, Microsoft Stock Image Photos, January 21, 2024

Disclaimer, Copyright and Trademark Statement

This article is provided for informational and educational purposes. It makes no warranties as to the claims, accuracy or fitness of information provided, referenced or cited. Use of the information, instructions, and any examples contained in this work is at your own risk. There should be no implied endorsement of this article by any person or organization referenced.

All trademarks, company, product and services names, images, descriptions, or public website content are property of their respective owner as source referenced. It is your responsibility to ensure that your use thereof complies with such license and/or right.

Blue Ocean®, Blue Ocean Shift®, Blue Ocean Strategy® are registered trademarks and intellectual property owned by Kim & Mauborgne.


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