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Blue Ocean Strategy Expanded Edition by W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne – 5 Stars

I gave the original version of Blue Ocean Strategy a five star review.

Blue Ocean Strategy Expanded Edition by W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

I’m happy to again give Five Stars to this updated version in my review posted on Amazon.co.uk. This means I think it is Excellent and Very Highly Recommended.

Yet I was left feeling disappointed. Read my review to find out why.

Even better and more comprehensive. A great guide to differentiation and finding new markets

I’ve been following the Blue Ocean approach since the authors started publishing articles in the Harvard Business Review in the late 1990s. Even though I had been introduced to some of the techniques before (and seen other versions of the strategy canvas elsewhere in the customer value literature), I loved the original book.

For me, the big question is whether this new version is worth buying if you already have the original?

It’s an extended version and not a rewrite. There’s a new introduction where the authors reflect on their experience and feedback on the Blue Ocean ideas and stress the increased importance for challenging existing market boundaries as the world needs more at lower cost. This ties in well with me as I’m gloomy about the future with the debt overhang, resource shortages and climate change which mean the past isn’t a reliable guide for the years ahead.

The meat of the new version comes in chapters:

9 – Align Value, Profit and People Propositions
10 – Renew Blue Oceans
11 – Avoid Red Ocean Traps

These replace the previous final chapter 9, conclusion: the sustainability and renewal of blue ocean strategy.

I’m a little disappointed that the earlier chapters weren’t updated. I haven’t done a word for word comparison but the examples seemed familiar. I think that new insights or nuances will have emerged from the techniques and it’s helpful to update the success stories.

I’d have also liked to have seen how guidance on how to go about a Blue Ocean project. I’m sure the authors will have a nice process from their consulting opportunities.

The new chapters help round off the earlier ideas and help relieve some of the criticisms that come from attempts to create blue oceans which flounder of the wheel of strategy implementation.

Chapter 9 – I liked the insight that red oceans force the three propositions for customers, shareholders and employees have to be forced to focus on the classic generic strategies of lowest cost or differentiation. In contrast, for blue oceans the aim should be to increase customer value and lower costs.

The alignment chapter looks in detail at Comic Relief and it’s a remarkable set-up and is not helpful in a commercial situation. It then goes on to compare Napster with iTunes and explains that Napster failed because it didn’t get buy-in from the record companies. Obvious I know.

Chapter 10 on renewing blue oceans for both single business and corporates was disappointing once it had explained that there are often significant barriers to competitive imitation but it can happen eventually. I can sum it up in a few words – keep monitoring using the existing blue ocean tools and then go through the exercise again when it’s necessary.

Chapter 11 is better as it goes into the barriers to move from red to blue. These help to explain why previous projects have failed despite the best intentions. A lot of this is about correcting misconceptions about blue ocean strategy. As I was reading, I felt the authors were trying hard to stress that blue ocean thinking was itself a blue ocean and not an extension or adaptation of previous strategy ideas. They protest too much.

I’ve left with two conclusions:

If you already own the original book, then this isn’t essential. Chapter 11 has been the focus of an article in HBR. I’m left feeling disappointed but I’m happy to have one version in hardback and this new version on kindle because it means I can take it with me to refer to when I need it.

If you don’t have the book and you’re interested in differentiating your business, then this is highly recommended and it is better than the original book.

You may not want to take the risk of moving to a blue ocean, but I think of a graduated scale from red to blue with a long stretch of purple in between as the differentiating factors get stronger or more unique and appeal across substitute markets or pull in new customers.

I’m not convinced that all markets have blue ocean opportunities but there is scope for differentiation within markets and across substitutes and complementary products. The book will help you think through what customers and non-customers with the underlying problem or issue, want and need.

What the book lacks is a practical how-to-do-it guide. That has since been fixed with the publication of Blue Ocean Shift.

It is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.


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