Blue Ocean Business – How to Master Non-Disruptive Market Creation

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This piece was written and contributed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne – professors and authors of the 3.6 million copy international bestseller Blue Ocean Strategy and the indispensable followup, Blue Ocean Shift – Beyond Competing: Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth (Hachette, September 2017).

Disrupt this, disrupt that. That’s the mantra of business today. And disruption is clearly one way to seize new growth. But, when you focus on disruption, you are effectively pitting yourself against existing players – many of whom have deeper pockets, wider market reach and will most likely come out slugging.

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But is that the only way? And is that the wisest way? Our research suggests no. Disruption is only half the picture when it comes to how markets get created. The other more interesting half is what we call non-disruptive creation. Non-disruptive creation occurs when you create a new market where there once wasn’t any. As a result, it doesn’t heroically pit you against Goliath.

Consider Tony Robbins. Tony effectively created the life-coaching industry, which has blossomed into a $2 billion industry. Prior to Tony, coaching was the domain of sports and peak performance athletes. Tony created an entirely new opportunity for people by combining the concept of coaching from sports – personal guidance, motivation, and accountability – with personal development to unlock this new industry space. In so doing, Tony didn’t disrupt another industry. He created a completely new market and added real value to people’s lives that they couldn’t get anywhere else. And people have flocked to him ever since.

It’s as Tony has always said:

“If you do what everyone else does, and you do it better than everybody else, you get a tiny competitive advantage. But if you do something no one else is doing in your space and focus on offering overwhelming value, if you create a blue ocean, you get a gigantic advantage.”

Focus on value innovation, not technology innovation per se.

In the mid-2000s, Tim Ferriss saw the opportunity to expand the industry Tony had created. He did this by opening a blue ocean of new market space in personal development that captured the zeitgeist of a new generation seeking freedom as well as alternatives to conventional careers and lives. The blue ocean Ferriss unlocked focuses on how individuals can maximize their success, freedom and adventure by understanding all that they could eliminate, reduce and leverage. By taking advantage of the huge opportunities offered by the internet, he showed how the 30- to 40-hour work week could be made irrelevant and replaced by a 4-hour one, leaving lots of free time to live life on your terms and explore the world, all while letting the internet and others work for you.

Ferriss’s huge following, like Tony’s, rests on a second strategic practice these visionaries follow. That’s a relentless focus on value innovation, rather than technology innovation. Value innovation occurs when you offer people a quantum leap in buyer value. Without value innovation, all the technology in the world will only get you so far. Value innovation is what gets people addicted to your offering, determined to keep on coming back. It’s what pulls new customers into your market. It’s the commitment to always put value innovation first, that has allowed both Tony and Tim to not only create new market space devoid of competition, but continue to dominate them for years or, as in Tony’s case – for decades.

Instead of focusing on technology first, focus on how your offering – whether it’s a product or service – makes buyers’ lives dramatically more productive, less risky, easier, less complex, more fun, or meaningful or more environmentally friendly. Once you get that right, shift your attention to how best to leverage that content with the best technology as they did and you’ll be on the path to shift beyond competing and create your own blue ocean devoid of competition.

Don’t focus on competing, focus on creating.

While many companies mistakenly equate technology innovation with value innovation and then later scratch their heads when the latest technology and all their social media channels fail to pull in customers, many also get side-tracked from achieving the success they want by an obsession with the competition. As they focus on benchmarking the competition and striving to beat competitors they unknowingly let the competition, not the customer, set their strategic agenda. Imitation, not innovation, typically results as companies take what competitors do and strive to do it better. That’s when things tend to only get bloodier.

To break out of the red ocean and seize new growth, shift your focus from competing to creating. Just as Tony and Tim created a blue ocean and seized new growth, you can too. Blue Ocean Shift provides a roadmap with proven steps any organization can follow – including yours – to get you there. What are you waiting for?

a purple paper boat is leading a row of white paper boats .
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