Top critical review
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on December 18, 2011
Logical, clearly written (though buzz words abound), and engaging, it's no wonder Blue Ocean Strategy was such a bestseller. Because they inevitably focus on innovative products or services (the authors use the term 'value innovation') that seemingly appear out of the blue to take a market by storm or to create a new market altogether, Blue Ocean Strategies (BOS) make the most compelling of stories. Unfortunately, the theory is weak for two reasons: the examples given, while interesting, are largely exercises in data-mining; and second, BOSs can only apply to a very, very small percentage of the market place, or else there would be no mainstream or conventional business in the first place.
Early in the book the authors talk about the certainty of the Euro's development as a currency: "... the euro has been evolving along a constant trajectory as it has been replacing Europe's multiple currencies. It is a decisive, irreversible, and clearly developing trend in financial services upon which blue oceans can be created as the European Union continues to enlarge." Current events have proved the authors dead wrong, and I cite the passage not to be nit-picky, but rather to illustrate the unscientific nature of the methodology. Examples are drawn selectively to prove a thesis. They appear to provide insight and are enjoyable to read - in fact may actually spur some of us to the desired results - but the book has little chance of a lasting impact on organizational behaviour or the academic body of knowledge.
In another example, the authors cite a purported mistake by genetically modified food maker Monsanto, in which they claim that had Monsanto educated environmental groups of the benefit of genetically modified foods, their company would have been hailed as heroes rather than pariahs. Very simplistic and debatable logic about a very complex issue. The example is topical and interesting, and does make readers think, but it's an example of the text's frequent shallowness.
The other major weakness is in the central premise - that companies should look to scalable, non-traditional markets for 'Blue Ocean' opportunities - because it will work for very few in practice. For the theory to have any credibility, the majority have to follow non BOSs in the first place. Enjoyable, but lightweight. If Dan Brown taught business, he might have written this book.