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  • Writer's pictureSamradni

Blue Ocean Shift Book Summary: Strategies and Learnings

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

I have broadened my horizons.

I am no longer reading only marketing books, but business books in general.

The book ‘Blue Ocean Shift by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne’ talks about how businesses are focussed on beating their competition.

When in fact, at times, that should not even be your focus.

The focus should be around making your competition irrelevant.

Let me explain this in simple terms, each industry today has multiple brands/products.

There is cutthroat competition everywhere.

Given this scenario, isn’t it better to make your own race where you are the only player?

Or is it better to keep competing against many others in your league, hoping to grab the first spot?

Obviously, the former.

The book is for that 54 year old businessman, who feels his business directions are haywire.

It’s also for that 26 year old entrepreneur who has just decided to start his own business.

This is because you can come across business saturation at any point in your life.

That’s when this much needed blue ocean shift, plays a major role.

Watch the YouTube video

What is the Blue Ocean Shift?

The book differentiates the market scenario into two categories.

One, being the red ocean, this is where a lot of brands operate- where there is tremendous competition.

The other one, being the blue ocean, where there is minimal to no competition, this is where the brands must focus.

Blue ocean shift, is like a road-map to move your team and your business away from the red ocean to reach new heights.

The Blue Ocean Shift 5-step framework

The Blue Ocean Shift comprises of a 5 step process.

No step should be replaced, and no step must be interchanged in order to ensure success.

Let’s look at this framework in brief

Blue Ocean Shift 5 step framework

Now let's look at each of them in detail

Step 1: Get Started

Try to get a good understanding of where do you wish to reach, what are the products or business objectives you wish to target.

Start by narrowing down the areas where you have the most to gain, and then build a team to help reach your goal.

Step 2: Understand your current state

Now, this is not a mistake.

There is a reason why this is not the first step.

When you decide to work towards your goal, it’s crucial to not feel satisfied with where you are already.

Only when you know the answer to where you want to be in the future, can you look at your present, to understand the steps you need to incorporate to reach there.

Step 3: Know the answer to ‘What’s stopping you?’

When you know the steps required for you to reach where you want to be, it's also important to know what’s stopping you from getting there.

Is the problem internal or external?

Is there a way to work around it?

Step 4: Move from generic to specific

This is extremely crucial.

Let’s say, for example, my goal is to reach maybe a 1000 subscribers at the end of this month, that’s a general goal I have.

However, now it’s time to get around working on specific steps that will lead me to this goal.

What are the blue ocean shifts I need to make, in order to ensure I reach the general goal?

Step 5: Launch your Blue Ocean strategy

Now it’s time to pick, test, and incorporate your blue ocean strategy.

The book is broadly divided into two parts, first being contextual with respect to understanding the framework and the other more focussed towards the learning.

Here are my top learnings from the book:

1. Within consumer pain points, lies new opportunities

There is no doubt that good businesses solve consumer problems.

However, if the problems are not that evident, how do we work around them?

So it’s crucial to figure out consumer problems- that’s where the Buyer Utility Map comes in.

Look at the image below- this is the Buyer Utility Map recommended by the author

Blue Ocean Strategy
Image Source:

It’s important to understand each stage that the customer goes through while purchasing a product/brand.

For example, if your product is an Umbrella, the most important criteria for a consumer might be the sturdiness.

Or for another majority, it might be the design.

What are the pain points then that your product aims to solve when it comes to these important aspects?

The answer to this question helps you to decide your offering- or in most cases, helps you alter your offering to suit the needs of the consumers.

2. To create your own Blue Ocean, you must learn to create new markets

Most of the time, we might feel that a new innovative idea is all it takes to make your business move in a new direction.

But is that so? I guess not

Are you telling me that every unique idea that ever struck a brilliant mind has always led to success?

Of course not!

It’s the way this new idea is approached, that makes all the difference

There are three ways in which you can create new markets, let’s look at them below-

a) Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive Innovation is when new innovations in product/distribution beat out the older ones and cause a ‘disruption’ in the industry.

Let’s look at an example-

Chik Shampoo
Image Source:

Chik shampoo believed in the ideology that “what the rich man can enjoy, the common man should be able to afford”.

This led to them coming up with a disruptive innovation of launching their shampoo in the form of 0.50 paise sachet.

Now we clearly know how amazing this turned out to be since today there is not a single shampoo brand not experimenting with sachets.

b) Non-disruptive Creation

Unlike Disruptive innovation, this one is not concerned with replacing or destroying a previous market.

Non-disruptive creation involves coming up with a solution for a previously unsolved problem.

So the focus here is around problem-solving.

Let’s look at an example-

M Indicator
Image Source:


One of the most important applications in every Mumbaikar’s phone.

I am including this under non-disruptive creation because the aim of the app was to solve a problem that most of the people traveling by trains faced- knowing the schedule of trains.

It acted as a one-stop solution to know train details and also get updated on the status.

c) Redefining an existing problem

This one involves re-looking or changing the way a problem is perceived by individuals.

Then coming up with a solution for this re-defined problem.

An example of this can be ITC Master Chef ready to eat meals.

ITC Master Chef
Image Source:

It’s a common belief that frozen foods are supposed to be unhealthy and not the preferred choice for consumption.

However, ITC came up with ready to eat meals, they are not only preservative-free but also can be cooked in multiple ways to ensure the healthy bit.

3. Between your assumptions of “This is too obvious, the consumer already knows this” to “This is too detailed, maybe I should skip it”- lies another Blue Ocean to swim

I have already covered the concept of Feature Fatigue, if you haven’t already read it, you can read it here.

Now, most of the time businesses get caught up in questions where their assumptions take them further down.

According to the author, this can be best executed using the four actions framework given below-

Blue Ocean Shift

Let’s understand this framework better.

It revolves around answering these four questions to come up with a new value that can be further worked around with.

Look at an example of a bakery

1. What part of your industry can be eliminated?

Let’s say the bakery sells cookies, cupcakes, tea cakes, pasty, etc. but as per the sales data, Cupcakes are not bought often.

Also, given their shelf life, it leads to a lot of wastage.

Maybe, this can be removed from the menu?

2. Are any of your offerings below the set standard?

The raw materials involved in baking the cookies differ.

But it’s crucial to know if it affects the quality of your end product.

If it does, maybe its time to re-look and consider better options.

3. What new offerings can we come up with?

Few products work really well for you, and maybe a big chunk of your sales comes in from this.

But, it’s important to keep offering new things and broaden this list of products that work really well for you.

Is there a product that your competitor is offering, that is working really well for them?

Maybe you can come up with something similar to not lose out on the market share.

4. Can some offerings be improved with respect to their standards?

Gluten-free cookies?

Different flavors?

A number of things can be incorporated in order to better the standards of the existing products.

All in all, this book is a great read and comprises of various direct actionable points that can be incorporated by any business in need.

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