I bet you’ve heard it before. A young man has a great idea. He’s presenting his deck to a group of potential investors. He’s asked, “Who is your competition?” He answers, “We don’t have any competition.” I’ve learned to instantly discount his idea at this point. There are some occasional arenas where innovation and disruption lead to an absence of competition but it is very rare.
Blue ocean does not see competition as bad. It doesn’t see it as always good. Competition leads to opportunities. The tradition view of companies is to beat competitors. Beat them at price, service, product offerings, speed, etc. In most cases, competition simply leads non blue ocean thinking companies to commoditize their offerings by lowering price or lowering value.
Blue ocean strategy leads strategists to instead lay out strategic factors of competition on a As-Is Strategy Map and investigate ways to transcend competition. It’s impossible to transcend markets you haven’t defined or solve problems you haven’t investigated.
Without competition, blue ocean companies would have never built entirely new offerings.
Think of these examples. Without the stodgy, protectionist stance of traditional airlines, Southwest Airlines never would have had success launching short hop flights with 20 minute turns at the gate that were nearly equivalent in price to driving one’s car. Without traditional symphony orchestras providing programming the same way in the same setting for 500 years, André Rieu would never have found an environment where creative non-disruption would lead to 12 plus years of being a top twenty five grossing music tour at a fraction of the traditional cost of orchestras serving millions of consumers at higher price points on tickets than any other orchestra in the world.
Blue ocean firms redefine industry boundaries. They are not constrained by the thoughts and worries of what the competition in doing. Competition is a simple series of data points needed to understand what a new group of non-consumers really want.
If you’d like to discuss competition in your industry and perhaps lay out the as-is strategy canvas for your industry, I’d love to. chat. Follow this link to schedule an hour long conversation. Free of charge of course.
Sherman G. Mohr is an Insead Certified Blue Ocean Strategist based in Nashville, TN.