Why the book Blue Ocean Strategy is still relevant

4 04 2016

Have you read the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim that came out in 2005 and create quite a buzz in the business world? Well, I did just when the book came out as a buddy of mine finishing his MBA at INSEAD recommended it to me. Now 11 years later I think it is still very relevant. What made me realize this, is when ING Bank asked to interview me for their homepage on the topic of books that inspired me…

Alon Ben Joseph describing Blue Ocean Strategy book

Although I love technology and everything digital, I am still very old school with somethings… I adore mechanical watches and physical paper books & newspapers. So, when I got asked by ING Bank to think of a book that inspired me as an entrepreneur, I went to my home office and browsed to all my (paper) books standing in my huge book case (collecting dust – huge disadvantage btw). When my eye fell on this book with a blue cover I read more than a decade ago, it clicked in my head. This book turned on so many lights in my head, I had to pick this one.

But, then a few seconds late, while holding the book in my hands and flipping threw it, I wondered if the theory/strategy described in this book still was relevant. I looked at when the book got released and it shocked me that more than 10 years have passed since it got introduced. This book and strategy created a buzz in the business world and not only for myself and our family business.

Before I jump to the interview and the reason I think a Blue Ocean Strategy is still a very relevant strategy, let’s give a quick executive summary of the theory:

“Blue Ocean Strategy was developed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. They observed that companies tend to engage in head-to-head competition in search of sustained profitable growth. Yet in today’s overcrowded industries competing head-on results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. Lasting success increasingly comes, not from battling competitors, but from creating blue oceans of untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.” (Source: Official website Blue Ocean Strategy)

Alon Ben Joseph's book review of Blue Ocean Strategy on www.ING.nl

Since the interview with ING Bank was done in Dutch a published on their website today (April 4th, 2016) for six weeks, I will translate the original text* here for my dear international readers as published via ING.nl:

Alon Ben Joseph, together with his brother Amir, runs the family business Ace Jewelers since 2012, although both have started in the company since 1998. Ace Jewelers has the most exclusive collections of jewels, watches and diamonds. Their main goal is to serve customers skillfully and friendly, both physically as well as digitally. Alon was responsible for the launch of Ace Jewelers’ eBoutique that they opened in 2008, the first luxury jeweller in the Netherlands to do so. 

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

When I think about entrepreneurship, I think about the following keywords:  creation (to make something out of nothing), relevance (adding value), creativity, leading and having fun. Since my early childhood I wanted to be an entrepreneur and even before I started working in the family business full-time, I already started an internet company. I am very fortunate to not only work in our family business Ace Jewelers, but also have had the ability start-up two more companies. Alle mentioned keywords are relevant for me on a daily basis and are the source of my energy and satisfaction.

What book has inspired you?

Many books have inspired me. Often auto biographies of other entrepreneurs, but a real eye-opener for was ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim back in the year 2005.

What did you learn from this book? And, how did it affect your daily operations?

It has been eleven year since the book been published and the theory launched, but it is still very relevant today.In a nutshell the book makes you see the market/economy in four quadrants. Three of these quadrants are oceans filled with blood, so-called: red oceans. Only one quadrant lacks blood in the ocean, hence a blue ocean. In case your company has a novel strategy that both deploys new technologies and penetrates new markts, then you are head of your competition and therefore the company will not bleed… Read: swim in a blue ocean.
What I have learned from this book is to think  ‘out-of-the-box’. To push boundries and redefine parameters. This book stimulated me to redefine the core strategy of our family business, to mutate from a classic brick-and-morter retailer to an omnichannel retailer. In 2007 we were the first luxury jeweler in the Netherlands and North West Europe that got authorized by the luxury brands to sell online. Ace Jewelers’ website and URL have been online since 1998, but we only got authorized to convert this to an eBoutique where we could sell online in 2008. Insights learned in this book redefined our core being and that made us an industry leader and trendsetter. Today our omnichannel strategy en the actual Blue Ocean Strategy  might not sound that modern or innovative anymore, but many retailers still have to make the transition in to a modern organisation to cater the novel wishes and demands of consumers today. So, this book is still very relevant and I highly recommend it.”

So, this is my short book review of “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim, a decade to late, but still so relevant. My next book review will be about the hard cover “#AskGaryVee Book” by Gary Vaynerchuck.
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* Original Dutch text published on ING Bank’s website:

Alon Ben Joseph runt samen met zijn broer Amir het familiebedrijf Ace Juweliers sinds 2012, maar is er al werkzaam sinds 1998. Ace Juweliers heeft de meest actuele collectie van sieraden, horloges en diamanten. Ze hebben als doel de consument vakkundig en vriendelijk te woord te staan, zowel in de winkel als digitaal. Alon heeft in 2008 de eBoutique geopend en was daarmee de eerste luxe juwelier in Nederland die online ging.

Wat betekent ondernemen voor u?

Als ik denk aan ondernemerschap denk ik aan kernwoorden als: creatie (van niets iets maken), zinnig (waarde toevoegen), creativiteit, leiden en plezier. Van jongs af aan wilde ik ondernemen en heb voor mijn toetreding in het familiebedrijf een internetbedrijf opgericht. Gelukkig heb ik de eer om nog steeds voor het familiebedrijf te werken, maar ook de kans gehad nog twee additionele bedrijven op te richten. Alle kernwoorden waar ik aan denk zijn dagelijks aan de orde en daar haal ik veel energie en voldoening uit.

Welk boek heeft u geïnspireerd?

Vele boeken hebben mij geïnspireerd. Vaak biografieën van andere ondernemers, maar echte eye-opener was voor mij, ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ van Renée Mauborgne en W. Chan Kim in 2005.

Wat heeft u van het boek geleerd? Wat ging u wellicht anders doen?

Inmiddels elf jaar later is het boek en voornamelijk de theorie nog heel relevant. In een notendop heeft het boek inzichtelijk gemaakt dat er vier kwadranten zijn waar ondernemingen in opereren. Drie daarvan zijn oceanen gevuld met bloed, rode oceanen dus. Slechts een kwadrant daarvan is bloedloos en dus blauw. Als je een strategie volgt die zowel een nieuwe techniek en nieuwe klanten/markten aanboort zal je de concurrentie voorblijven en dus niet bloeden… Lees: zwemmen in een blauwe oceaan. Wat ik van dit boek geleerd heb is om ‘out-of-the-box’ te denken. De grenzen te verleggen en de parameters te herdefiniëren. Wij zijn onder andere hierdoor de strategie van ons familiebedrijf gaan herdefiniëren, van een klassieke brick-and-morter retailer zijn wij veranderd in een omnichannel retailer. In 2007 waren wij de eerste luxe juwelier in Nederland en Noord-West Europa die geautoriseerd werden door luxe merken om online te verkopen. Toentertijd een unicum, omdat de luxe merken fel gekant waren tegen online verkopen. Wij waren online met Ace Juweliers vanaf 1998, maar konden pas daadwerkelijk in 2008 online verkopen. Door inzichten geleerd in dit boek, hebben wij onze hele organisatie aangepast en zijn wij voorloper geworden in ons segment en industrie. Vandaag klinken zowel onze omnichannel strategie en de Blue Ocean Strategy niet zo modern en innovatief meer, maar vele retailers moeten nog steeds de slag maken om hun retail organisatie mee te laten evolueren met de wensen van de consument. Dus het boek is een echte aanrader.”

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