In a rare interview, Kim and Mauborgne, both strategy professors, told Knowledge that they knew there would be an audience for their research as their articles in the Harvard Business Review sold half a million reprints.
“So unless there’s some new enlightenment,” says Kim, “we will repeat the same process of a research journey. For that I think we are both proud and feel satisfied with that. Its commercial success is a secondary interest, even though it’s exciting to see what happened.”
Blue Ocean Strategy Institute
“The main purpose of the Institute is mainly an academic one as it will dedicate itself to the academic development of Blue Ocean Strategy theory.” It will also have a pedagogical ambition as it will be looking to develop short Blue Ocean Strategy “theory movies” in contrast to the current paper-based case studies produced by Harvard and others.
“Multimedia can be introduced in a very constructive way in terms of creative content,” says Mauborgne. “If you want to teach industrial history from 1900 to 2000, this is certainly good way to learn by watching how industry has been evolving. In middle of it, the class can discuss the implications using analytics and have a rich conversation. Classrooms should be moving from paper cases to more visual movie-oriented ones.”
“Suppose I want to teach the history of Blue Ocean Strategy’s evolution over last 100 years. Then we could produce a 5-7 minute ‘theory’ movie on the theme.” These will not just be documentaries with some teaching content, Mauborgne says, as there will be an “interjection of scenes by the theorist. So it will be a documentary with theory woven into it.”
As for other future Blue Ocean developments, Kim says that for the time being, he and Mauborgne are “very occupied with deepening and broadening Blue Ocean Strategy … because we’ve just started to explore the topic and there are so many things to do.”
So with many companies interested in finding blue oceans, do the authors have sleepless nights, worrying that they may not be getting it right, especially as the stakes are high? “We have heard the success stories because people all want to talk about success,” Kim replies. “Sadly, we don’t hear failure stories enough because people want to hide the failures. So we haven’t reached any conclusions yet about this working wonderfully for every company, because I’m certain we need to go deeper into failures. And to discover the failure cases I think we need to have a lot of ‘incognito detectives’ to deal with the data and really tell the story of what happened. I’m certain there will be some of those, many of those. The more we have, the more we will learn from them about what failed and what succeeded. Failure may come from outright failure of theory, or it can come from misapplications of such. We need to identify the causes of those.”
But Kim goes on to say: “We remain optimistic because we have reasonable grounds to believe that this works after a 15-year journey. But certainly with the Institute, in a couple of years we will find more and more failures, possibly then.”
Even if a company manages to find a blue ocean with no competitors, it will need to be ‘almost like a moving target,’ Kim concludes. “You should never be a sitting duck because people will imitate you,” emphasizes Mauborgne.