Blue Oceans: the basics

I’m reading Blue Ocean Shift at the moment – the practical guide to the more theoretical Blue Ocean Strategy.

I teach strategy as part of my KM foundation course and separately in afternoon workshops and I’ve found that the red ocean/blue ocean imagery works well. People intuitively “get” these ideas, even if they initially feel at a loss as to how to implement them and find their own blue water.

So this is a short series of posts all about Blue Ocean Strategy and how it could apply to law firms.

The basics

What is “blue ocean strategy” thinking?

Red oceans exist where organisations compete with each other (like sharks in the ocean) in an existing market.

Blue oceans exist where new markets are created, offering different value, where there are fewer/no competitors.

In red oceans the primary focus becomes value-cost trade offs (you can be Asda or Waitrose, not both).

In blue oceans, there is a step change in the kind and degree of value which is offered and a new market is created.

A blue ocean strategy is a strategy that shifts you (if you are already in business) from your existing red ocean to a blue ocean where the existing productivity curve is no longer relevant and a brand new problem is solved, or (if you are an entrepreneur) identifies and takes you to new blue-ocean opportunities.

Is blue ocean strategy the same as creative disruption?

There is a lot of talk in legal circles about “disruption” at the moment. How does blue ocean thinking fit with “disruption”?

Disruptive creation occurs when an innovation displaces an earlier technology or existing service. It occurs in two main situations – disruptive innovation and creative destruction.

“Disruptive innovation” begins with the arrival of an inferior technology/service/product which then becomes a market leader (e.g. digital photography, transistor radios, mp3 players). Disruptive innovation is often ignored by the mainstream players because it does not appear to threaten them initially.

“Creative destruction” occurs when a superior technology/service/product destroys the old market.

In contrast, a blue ocean service/product can coexist with existing products/services (e.g. microloan companies serve new types of customers with microfinance and co-exist with conventional banks serving conventional customers).

Blue ocean strategy thinking is about capturing and serving new customers rather than fighting over existing ones.


Interested in innovation?

About knowledge4lawyers

I am a lawyer and a Knowledge Management expert. Through The Knowledge Business I help law firms improve their efficiency and profitability through knowledge services - consultancy, training and implementation help.
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2 Responses to Blue Oceans: the basics

  1. Pingback: Taken for granted | Knowledge for Lawyers

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