Blue Ocean Strategy Book Review by Andrew Isherwood

Review and synopsis of the book Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim & Mauborgne

The Blue Ocean Strategy book by Kim & Mauborgne (2005) is a set of tools aimed at creating strategies for uncontested market spaces.  These tools are specifically designed to easily communicate the message to either employees or funders.  This book seems to resonate with practising managers (in a survey of 500 practising managers 183 had head of blue ocean strategy and 98% thought it would be helpful).


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The difficulty today with the hyper competitive market of globalisation means we are all looking for the elusive silver bullet to success.  The tools in Blue Ocean Strategy try and concentrate the mind on optimisation of the a traditional hybrid strategy proposition1 by both eliminating and reducing costs of unimportant aspects of your offering and increasing or creating new value in parameters which customers value the tools guide the user first though the identification of the important parameters (the value network), then through the optimisation of these parameters and finally to add some new parameters to create a unique hybrid strategy.

The book uses lots of examples which are entertaining and stimulating however they have not used the Blue Ocean Strategy tools to create these success stories, rather these are example of situations where they could have been used.  This post hoc rationalisation of examples is typical for this type of book and also attracts lots of criticism.  However, there are now several papers looking at real life examples which seem to show success.

There are two main takeaways from this book; the first is to use the tools as an aid to concentrate creativity where it will make the most difference.  The tools encourage this by giving a framework and breaking problems down into easy to handle chunks to create that unique hybrid strategy.  The second takeaway is the tools are really good as a visual communication aid especially when communicating complex issues to gain funding or obtaining buy-in from employees.

This book is a must read especially if you are planning to change strategic direction.  However you should also look at more traditional strategy tools such as porters 5-forces if you are aiming at an existing market.

Kim and Mauborgne’s web site is very informative and worth a visit link to Blue Ocean Strategy web site. The wiki page is also interesting: wiki link

  1. Bowen C. & Faulkner D. (1996), “Competitive and Corporate Strategy”, Irwin []

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