Book Review: ‘Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing’ by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

March 17, 2018 Updated: October 8, 2018

The authors that penned one of the most popular business books of recent times—“Blue Ocean Strategy”—are back on bookshelves with “Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing, Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth.”

In their groundbreaking original, strategy professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne taught businesses how to “make the competition irrelevant” and coined a now commonly used marketing term, “blue ocean,” that is a market free of “bloody” competition. (A highly competitive marketplace is referred to as a “red ocean.”)

Kim and Mauborgne taught leaders how to create uncontested market space for their businesses. “The only way to beat the competition,” they explained, “is to stop trying to beat the competition.”

This refreshing concept turned business axioms on their heads and encouraged innovation and creativity among start-up entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 executives alike.

“Shift,” while lacking the groundbreaking nature of its predecessor, goes deeper, providing a thorough review of the original blue ocean philosophy and then shifts to the application of the strategy. The latter is where the new book shines.

Through numerous inspiring examples and detailed, practical steps, “Shift” explains the “how” that the original “Blue Ocean Strategy” may have been missing.

To make a blue ocean shift, the authors outline the following five steps:

  1. Get started by choosing your target and constructing your team
  2. Get clear about the current state of play
  3. Imagine where you could be
  4. Find how you get there (using their provided analytical tools)
  5. Make your move

A valuable read for a variety of business people, from small business owners to corporate executives, from nonprofit volunteers to solopreneurs, “Blue Ocean Shift” offers a detailed framework through which to analyze efforts.

At times a bit cumbersome, the book may make readers scan pages to get to those elements that apply to them, and fans of the original may find this a lackluster sequel, but useful.

Regardless, the overall philosophy and practical analysis provide fundamental thinking for any individual working to make an impact in their space. Someone looking for a comprehensive understanding of marketing strategy would do well to start with “Blue Ocean Shift.”

‘Blue Ocean Shift’
W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Hachette Books
432 pages; hardcover, $34

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