Sailing Into Blue Oceans

What if your institution could attract new donors unlike any other?  What if the programs and services you offered were so compelling that you really had no competition?

These are two of the questions Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Mauborgne encouraged me to think about.  If you’ve not read Blue Ocean, I would highly recommend it.

The idea behind Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) is that most organizations tend to compare themselves to their competition or to benchmarks in their industry. But these comparisons are not very helpful in creating strategies which distinguish you from the other organizations like you.  In other words, if all you do is compare yourself to other organizations which operate much like you do, you will never distinguish yourself from them.

Therefore BOS argues that we shouldn’t spend our time making these comparisons.  Instead, to create lasting value for constituencies (and to thrive as an organization), we should focus on thinking about the services we could provide which are not yet being provided.  We should think about creating new markets thus making the competition irrelevant.

The real value-add of the book is that they divide their time equally between strategy and execution.  So, not only do you understand the thinking behind the concept, but there is provided a blueprint for implementation of BOS in your organization.

The only real drawback I could find was the fact that all of the examples presented were corporate.  As I read, I thought about how BOS may help educational, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.   Here are questions I found myself asking:

  • How might a university truly become an engine for lifelong learning so that all members of the local and/or regional community see themselves as prospective students and donors?
  • How might a hospital provide new services which would transform the definition of “patient” and attract the population of otherwise healthy people as clients?
  • What distinctive programs might a non-profit create which would attract a whole new segment of donors?

We regulary characterize our organizations as “distinctive,” “special,” and “unique.”  But are we really?  Do our donors and constituents really see us as that different from other schools, hospitals, and non-profits?  BOS will encourage you to think in ways that will ensure they do.


Leave a Reply

Using Gravatars in the comments - get your own and be recognized!

XHTML: These are some of the tags you can use: <a href=""> <b> <blockquote> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>