Wednesday, December 29

Part 2 - Simplify Blue Ocean & Make Consultants __________!

We do no market research. We don't hire consultants. The only consultants I've ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway's retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple's retail stores]. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products. “
Steve Jobs

Ironically, when strategy/marketing/innovation consultants and Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) black belts pitch for a project, Steve Jobs and Apple will probably be mentioned, or used as an example for creating value innovations, and making the competition irrelevant.

Steve Jobs, thanks for making that clearer! So, next time you want to create value innovations, perhaps hiring consultants to practically do everything (including help you to fill up all the magical templates) from conceptualization to a sizzling blueprint for innovation is perhaps not the best way to go.

“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do. So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what’s the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me ‘A faster horse.’’’

Thanks, Steve!

A few weeks back, I attended a 2 day (free) Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) at the UCSI Blue Ocean Strategy Regional Centre (1st - 2nd December, 2010), and during the process I got to meet and share ideas with several of the big shots in the UCSI BOS team.

Based on their e-mail invitation, the title of the workshop was “Blue Ocean Strategy Initiative for Education: Creating New Marketspace & Championing New Growth”, but then when I arrived I got to learn that we would not be talking much about education, and that made me furious. Also, I had pulled out a tooth a few days earlier (picture above), so my patience was obviously rather toothless. Luckily the BOS team had Yoann Sapanel (one of the facilitators) to cool me down, and clarify why they would not be talking much about education. Although, I didn't buy the good old 'We are teaching you how to fish..." excuse, I have to admit, he was the only BRILLIANT presenter and facilitator during the workshop, according to my high expectations.

Though, thanks to my outspoken frustrations, they did explore briefly two Universities that had used BOS to innovate, which were Limkokwing University (Rented a building in London, and brought the University (learning) experience to UK) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (Used BOS on their own, which resulted in getting the APEX Status). As the facilitator was mumbling with a bad accent, it was not easy to really understand what he was trying to say (But, at least some relevant points!).

During the workshop, we did explore several of the essential BOS tools, and worked through the BOS process, before presenting our BOS project.

Here is a 1-minute Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) visualization crash course:
  1. Visual Awakening
    Use the 'as if' strategy canvas to compare your current strategy with competitors and see where it needs to change.

  2. Visual Exploration
    Use the 'Six Paths Framework' to look across the six conventional boundaries of competition to systematically reconstruct market assumptions to create new market space. During this process, you observe your own products and/or services, and distinctive advantages of alternative products/services. To look beyond existing customers and develop insights on non-customers, use the 3 Tiers of Noncustomers'. Then, use the ERRC Grid to see which factors to eliminate, reduce, raise and create to find a leap in value (Value Innovation).

  3. Visual Strategy Creation
    Draw your 'To Be' strategy canvas based on insights from the visual exploration phase. Then develop a clear-cut and compelling tagline, which captures the essence of the "to be" strategy in a way that speaks forcefully to both a company's employees and the target mass of buyers.

  4. Visual Communication
    Apply the '4 Actions Framework', and present your strategic options to stake holders and fine tune. Then communicate your new BOS with existing strategy canvas, ERRC grid and 'To Be' strategy canvas. For easy comparison, show your before-and-after strategic profiles on one page, and make sure that the factors to eliminate, reduce, raise and create are clearly identified. Use 'BOS sequence' for strategic validation, and use 'Execution Hurdles', 'Tipping Point Leadership', and 'Fair Process' to execute effectively. What do you think?

During both days, each team (consisting of 5-6 members) worked on a BOS project. UCSI BOS team preselected a few industry segments to choose from, which included taxi, hospital, mall, and cafeteria. Personally, I wanted really to explore a BOS within education, but that was a big 'No-No', as they wanted to teach us how to fish, and since most of the participants were from the education sector it would not be appropriate to share University-Leaks. That is when I felt that there was a hidden agenda to this so called 'free' workshop. Where they using us to fish for new ideas for their on-going BOS projects?

But, since it was free, I suppose it was a win-win situation for all. We learned the BOS, and they discovered perhaps a few new useful ideas, which they could use elsewhere. If that was the case, they should have been upfront honest and professional about it. But then again, BOS and Value Innovation has never really emphasized (to my knowledge) the importance of social responsibility, protecting the environment, and caring about cultures, which are essential for long-term sustainability of mankind (and Earth).

Adam Werbach will clarify and enlighten you on what I am really trying to say:

Our group worked on transforming an old non-performing hospital, and we conceptualized a brilliant BOS, entitled 'The i-Wellness Village' (Just added 'The' and 'Village'. Original BOS was just 'i-Wellness') with a compelling tagline 'Live Your Dreams!'. Basically, we sold the old hospital, and then bought and transformed a hotel resort (working with partners) into the perfect old-folks resort where they could live their dreams.

Today, populations around the world are getting older, governments are going bankrupt, and they are looking for ways to cut cost. At the same time, families are getting smaller, less to take care of older people, meaning the government must increasingly establish new old-folks hospitals and homes, which are extremely expensive in countries like Scandinavia, Japan, South Korea, and so on. While the cost is high, many old people are miserable with such arrangements, especially during winter.

'The i-Wellness Village' BOS solves all these issues, as old-folks get to live their dreams in amazing resorts (sun, beach, sea, swimming pools, restaurants, villages, shopping, golf, bus tours, etc.) that also provide all the necessary hospital support (value added), and governments (e.g. Norway) save tremendous cost by outsourcing it to Malaysia (cost savings). More importantly, old-folks gets to experience a happier ending to their lives.

At the end of the workshop, we had to pitch our BOS project to two real venture capitalists (each had 50 million simulated dollars to invest) and the other participants. At that time, our BOS project had many loopholes and my teammates were a bit worried that we would get slammed. Anyway, why worry? It is just some simulated fun, so I took up the challenge to present our BOS project. Little did I know that Dr. Robert Bong, who was one of the venture capitalist evaluators (Also a BOS champion!) would not only slam the project (loopholes), he would literally TKO us (or at least me!), and end with a damning, 'I will not invest in this project'. I wanted to challenge him on all points, but his sharpness and our loopholes were too deep, meaning if I did challenge I would probably get total brain damage. In short, I said 'That's all' and I sat down.

However, being up there knocked out on my first ever pitch to a venture capitalist, was a refreshing and valuable learning experience. Also, I learned a great BOS like 'The i-Wellness Village' will always initially have many loopholes, meaning great ideas need time to nurture, and one should never take 'No' for an answer (Tony Fernandes). Though, I do hope Dr. Robert Bong changes his mind, or at least consider investing in such a project. I suppose if I had pitched it today, he would have seen the big picture clearly. Anyway, the other venture capitalist invested 20 million (simulated) dollars, and told us this project could make a lot of money. 'The i-Wellness Village' will not only make a lot of money, it will empower old-folks to live their dreams and have a happier ending. AWESOME!

The 'The i-Wellness Village' is perfect for Malaysia, so I do hope other venture capitalists take it up. Perhaps such projects are already under development in Malaysia.

So, my final verdict on Blue Ocean Strategy tools is...

USEFUL for big projects, but USELESS for daily inspirational innovations.

Could we simplify BOS (tools), and make consultants irrelevant in the innovation process?

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