Our one takeaway: Blue Ocean

Blue Ocean Strategy.

It would be fair to say that Blue Ocean Strategy is one of the most impactful strategy books every published. The book sold over 3.6 million copies and was published in over 40 languages.

Blue Ocean is all about finding uncontested space, either by creating a new market or by extending an existing one. There are case studies out there that have touched all of our lives - Ebay creating completely new behaviours through their online auction, and Comic Relief, sidestepping the traditional charity model by engaging and involving the public without involving guilt and pity in their marketing.

It’s exciting to think about how you create or pivot companies to access blue ocean markets. To render competition irrelevant by moving into an uncontested space. 

But most of us aren’t in a position to pivot an entire company - or to build something from the ground up. Does that make Blue Ocean thinking irrelevant in every day business? We don't think so. 

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Our one takeaway: Don’t waste time and money fighting - find your own space to play.

This series is all about making these methodologies more accessible. Trying to draw out our one key takeaway as a starting point for someone trying to drive change in a large organisation. For us, when it comes to Blue Ocean, it's not any one framework or specific tool, but a high-level mindset that is incredibly powerful. If your time, effort and money are going towards fighting battles, they're not adding value for customers.

If you've come across Blue Ocean before you'll be familiar to the concept of applying this mindset in looking at market opportunities. We think it's powerful applied to internal challenges too. Think about not just your approach to finding and shaping new ideas - but working out how to make them happen too.

In both cases you'll move forward faster and create more value for customers by finding the route that creates the least friction. 

Market opportunities.

I wrote about embracing the ‘minimum viable’ in the last article. Before you even get to this point you have to decide on a direction. A value proposition that you will then go on to prototype and test. This is where Blue Ocean is most powerful.

Being a fast-follower when it comes to innovating within a big company can often feel like the easy route because you can learn from how the market has responded to risks others have taken. But isn’t it easier in the long-run not to be batting heads with direct competition who are always just one step ahead of you?

A few tips on finding your Blue Ocean space:

  • Consider customer or user pain-points - which are the most acute? How are these currently being addressed? 
  • Is there an audience who aren’t currently served by your existing offer who could really value it?
  • Is there something new you could offer to your existing customers? Something the industry doesn't currently offer at all?
  • What could you completely change, or get rid of? What are the things you've been competing on that aren’t offering great value?
  • Is there anything in your offer that comes at a high cost but don’t add equivalent value to customers? Can you redress the balance and reduce this?

Internal challenges.

In a large company, process, hierarchy and regulation can make it feel like it’s hard to capitalise on opportunities. New ideas constantly get stuck. We've seen Public Sector teams have a particularly tough time of this - our Civil Service is bursting with people wanting to be part of driving positive change - but often feeling that they have their hands tied. 

If you’re not in an environment where bashing the walls down is a possibility, then spend some time really thinking about where ‘gaps’ exist. Use your constraints as a springboard for creative thinking. Some of our most interesting and inspiring projects have come from within organisations facing the most challenging barriers to change.

Simply positively accepting barriers and constraints can be a good place to start - map out the things you really can’t touch, and then think about the things you can.

  • What are the things you definitely can do? 
  • Can you leverage these areas of possibility in a new way?

If you need some inspiration and encouragement please check out the work of OneTeamGov. This is a really powerful example of a group of innovators within a highly challenging environment, working to find the things they can do. And as a result finding creative routes to driving really impactful change.  

A final thought.

Every team is different, and finding the right way to get the best out of everyone is unlikely to be as simple as finding one methodology and following the rules. This article is about a key high-level idea within Blue Ocean Strategy that has fundamentally changed the way that I work - but it might be something different, for you, that inspires a new way of building ideas or a new way of working. It's well worth a read - you can get it here.


Are you frustrated by a lack of willingness to engage or adopt new methodologies. That people ‘just aren't getting it'?

We know how hard it is. Implementing any of these requires much more than a change in process and approach. It requires a change in culture.

If you'd like to learn more about how we help teams move forward and seed a change in culture for the long term, get in touch here.

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Imo is a partner at Think Plan Thrive, a London based Strategy company. We help organisations seize opportunity. Execute and grow, fast. We’re passionate about supporting individuals and teams in big companies to drive change faster. In a way that's less risky and drives positive cultural change too. 

Contact us.

We love a chat. Ask us questions. Let us buy you coffee. We want to hear what keeps you up at night, we might just be able to help.

Email  imo@thinkplanthrive.com

Call us on +44 (0)207 193 7924

Ask us anything. Book a free consult.

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