A view from INSEAD

INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy

Fares Boulos

Programme Director Fares Boulos on a unique approach to breaking away from the competition and creating uncontested market space.

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What is the focus of INSEAD’s Blue Ocean Strategy programme?

The quest for strategic innovation is not new: senior managers have always looked at innovation as the conduit toward long term value creation. The Blue Ocean Strategy programme provides a disciplined, systematic and highly practical framework that helps managers develop impactful strategic moves to step out of the 'Red Oceans' – bloody zero-sum boxing matches - and instead move towards the 'Blue Ocean' of sustained value creation. Over a four-day intensive ‘bootcamp’, participants will learn and practise how to become accomplished Blue Ocean practitioners. 

How relevant is this approach today, compared to 10 years ago when the programme was first conceived?

INSEAD professors and management gurus W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne developed the theory behind Blue Ocean Strategy. This culminated in the 2005 publication of their best-selling book of the same name that has sold over 3.5 million copies in more than 40 languages.

I would say the changes that have affected business since 2005 make Blue Ocean Strategy that much more relevant in 2016. Organisations today are having to compete in economies still in recovery mode after being deeply wounded by the 2008 global financial crisis, in industries that are disrupted by new technologies, and in a world that is being buffeted by strong global economic and geopolitical currents. This is a challenging and unforgiving environment that takes innovation from a ‘nice to have’ to a management imperative. The programme is positioned perfectly to respond to this challenge.

And how has the programme evolved over the years? 

Since 2005, INSEAD has delivered about 200 BOS sessions in over 50+ executive education programmes across five continents. As a result, our leading faculty constantly adds to our experience in designing and delivering Blue Ocean Strategy programmes, ensuring that INSEAD remains very much the intellectual home and at the forefront of Blue Ocean Strategy. We are constantly refreshing the programme with new case studies and applications based on the real-world experiences of the thousands of participants and students who attend INSEAD. And its applications are broadening: recently, Professors Kim and Mauborgne have extended their Blue Ocean work to the public service, for example with the government of Malaysia. I have also written about Blue Ocean politics, with a case study tracing how Justin Trudeau, Canada’s recently elected prime minister, came from a distant third place in the polls to achieve a smashing victory by designing a campaign strategy that mirrors Blue Ocean principles.

To put it simply, INSEAD’s Blue Ocean Strategy programme continues to grow and applies to a very wide swath of organisational situations, making it more relevant today than it was 10 years ago. 

What else is innovative about INSEAD’s delivery of the Blue Ocean Strategy programme?

A hallmark of INSEAD’s approach is experiential learning, and Blue Ocean Strategy is one of our flagship programmes in this area. Participants are encouraged to come to INSEAD with a specific challenge or issue that is affecting their organisation. Over the course of the four-day 'bootcamp' – working with INSEAD’s faculty, in small groups and on their own – they ‘learn by doing’. Under our guidance, they learn and practice how to uncover a ‘Blue Ocean’ of new market space for their organisation, while practising how to take their ideas from concept to the pilot stage by using our “BOS toolkit”. At the same time, they become members of a vast and growing global Blue Ocean Strategy network as they meet with and learn from their peers. 

What kind of participant would particularly benefit from the programme?

Blue Ocean Strategy is relevant for anybody in charge of a business unit. Most likely, you are the person responsible for the financial statements of a unit in your firm. You may be in charge of developing new product and service offerings in your organisation. Perhaps you are the CEO, if yours is a small company, or the general manager, if it’s a larger one. You could be a member of the management team of your business unit in operations, logistics, and sales and marketing, or in support functions such as finance, legal, R&D and HR. This diversity of functions reflects the way we design BOS teams within companies who engage INSEAD to implement these programmes.

How does the programme teach participants to do things differently in just four days?

Let’s say you are a general manager and you have read Blue Ocean Strategy, the best-selling book on which the programme is based. There’s no doubt that you’ll get benefits from applying the book’s learning on your own. We believe, however, that you can extend the benefits much further by coming to INSEAD to attend the four-day 'bootcamp' or a customised programme if your firm is large enough to merit its own Blue Ocean Strategy application. By coming to INSEAD you’ll get the benefit of interacting with very experienced BOS faculty who created and applied the intellectual property behind Blue Ocean Strategy in the first place and who have accumulated a wealth of experience by working with hundreds of managers like yourself. The toolkit that we have developed over the years is highly rigorous, well tested and unique to INSEAD. We are confident that we can get you up to speed very quickly to allow you to make Blue Ocean Strategy happen as soon as you return to your organisation.

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