The last chapter of Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant (Harvard Business School Press), is dedicated to the topic of sustaining and renewing a Blue Ocean Strategy. Authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, seem to compromise the main premise of their book by suggesting a successful blue ocean strategy will invite competitors, thereby creating the red ocean they so virulently abhor. Which begs the obvious question - what happened to creating uncontested markets? When confronted with competition the authors counsel abandoning the blue ocean and innovating new blue oceans. Interestingly, nowhere in the final chapter do they suggest that after going through the process and investment of innovating a blue ocean that the enterprise might stay and aggressively defend that which it created.
Granted, the above can lead to a tedious debate over the definition and timing of sustainability, uncontested and irrelevant. However I will assume that Chan and Mauborgne intended these benefits to be more than fleeting opportunities especially since many of the case studies referenced in the book involved decades of advantage gained by early and mid-20th century enterprises implementing so-called blue ocean strategies.
For the adroit competitor keeping a list of those enterprises implementing a blue ocean strategy might be a lucrative exercise. Once the blue ocean enterprise has done all of the heavy lifting necessary to create a new market, they will be an easy target to attack and dislodge. As we have indicated in other posts the main issue we have with blue ocean folks is their assertion that you can make competition irrelevant in the 21st century.
The reality of any blue ocean strategy is that unlike the 20th century when business cycled at a much slower rate, in the 21st century, any productive blue ocean will quickly fill with competitors. Competition can not be avoided. So be prepared to compete. To engage in head-to-head competition always in search of sustained, profitable growth. You have to fight for competitive advantage, battle over market share, and struggle for differentiation.
Other recent posts we've made regarding Blue Ocean Strategy:
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