Blue Oceans? What is with the blog’s name?   2 comments

Blue Oceans for Health? Kind of a strange name, huh? After coming up with the name (and, of course, prematurely securing the naming rights), I realized there are two issues with the name that could make it problematic for the blog’s newcomers. For those readers unacquainted with the management sciences, the name is likely to be incomprehensible at first read. On the other hand, for the strategy mavens out there I am afraid the “blue oceans” referred to may be less intellectually rigorous than what you’re hoping. If I’ve sufficiently disappointed both ends of the knowledge spectrum, my hope is that there is a sweet spot of blog readers who can appreciate the meaning behind the blog’s name without becoming obsessed with a strict interpretation of its underpinnings.

For the Uninitiated (My apologies to experts for any oversimplification)

In 1997, Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne published an article in the Harvard Business Review, “Value Innovation: The Strategic Logic of High Growth,” that initiated a challenge by the authors to traditional structuralist approaches to management strategy. “Strategy” in the management sciences is the part of running a business that is concerned with how one succeeds against business competitors. In other words, it doesn’t matter if a company sells the greatest toaster in the world if it is not able to use its relative strengths to outcompete other sellers of toasters. For decades, most academics have argued for some variation of a structuralist approach where’s one competitive position in the industry relative to other firms is what determines one’s strategy. Michael Porter (and his Five Forces model) has been one of the most prolific and best-known proponents of such a positioning approach (to the point that a strategy professor of mine at Saïd once remarked that to get something published in strategy basically means its got to out-think Porter).

Kim and Mauborgne had such an impact because they argued that the debate is not about industry structure but about how a firm remakes an industry to make it strategically advantageous. This reconstructionist approach they advocated was ultimately named a “blue ocean strategy.” The basic premise is that the majority of industries in their present form are highly competitive and hold increasingly homogenous products. Competing in such an environment makes a “red ocean” where competitors become increasingly aggressive which leads to a bloody ocean with only marginal success. In contrast, “blue oceans” represent currently unknown markets that are available for entry by the firm but often not yet identified by competitors. One of the most successful firms at employing a blue ocean strategy is Nintendo who has continued to re-invent itself as it brings new products to market that change the nature of by whom and how video games are played.

and…What’s with the name?!

My personal view of the healthcare industry today is that we are too confined to competing in and thinking about the same red oceans. For us to find ways to deliver better care at reasonable costs, we need to look beyond the products, services, and ideas that have largely created the current mess. Rather than using the term “blue oceans” to discuss business strategies, I am adopting the term here to mean thinking about healthcare problems and brainstorming solutions that explore new frontiers of healthcare. Blue Oceans for Health is designed to be an online space that evaluates new concepts for better healthcare by analytically asking how these proffered solutions are different from the current paradigm and what advantages they bring.

Posted January 3, 2012 by Ira Leeds in Introductory Material (For newcomers)

2 responses to “Blue Oceans? What is with the blog’s name?

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  1. Apparently this idea of blue ocean healthcare is catching on. DrKen at the American Healthcare Leadership Institute recently wrote a short piece exploring this idea in more detail.

  2. Pingback: Year in Review – Best of 2012 « Blue Oceans for Health

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