I recently read a copy of the book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant. As many have observed previously, this is a great source of inspiration and food for thought, and well worth the investment of time from product managers.
Blue Ocean strategy, in summary, involves examining the value proposition of a value or service to identify whether every item included is truly valued or could be eliminated, and whether any additional items adjacent to the offering could be included as a way to expand the footprint of the offering to serve additional parts of the market.
The most valuable tool I found in the book is the Strategy Canvas. The strategy canvas is a graphical tool that represents the key value elements included in an offering, and comparing how multiple competitors position themselves to satisfy each of those key elements. By including a “Red line” one can show where the current industry value curve sits, to provide additional perspective. I’ve immediately found the technique useful in visualizing and describing how an already-specified product will compete and keeping focus on where to invest resources. I look forward to applying this visualization technique to new-product development.
One of the book’s frequent criticisms is that the book doesn’t validate that commonly-cited trend-setters like Southwest Airlines or Cirque de Soleil achieved their success as a result of applying Blue-Ocean analysis and strategy, or whether they are simply easily illustrated using the book’s approach and techniques. Scott Sehlhorst has suggested that the way to design a winning product in the Blue Ocean framework is to apply the same type of measurement to personas: measure the value each persona places on each value element, and from there design your offering around the value elements that concern the persona you are building your product for. I recommend reviewing Scott’s post as a primer on how to apply this strategy framework proactively.
The anecdotes that illustrate the book’s key points are memorable and useful–one can easily use the stark contrasts between Cirque and its competitors, for example, as an analogy when discussing competitive strategy. Since I was immediately able to put the book to use in my day-to-day work, before even finishing the last chapter, I can do nothing but recommend this title to other product managers.