I’m just going to say it:
a red ocean is a lot easier than a blue ocean.
In the end, it boils down to this:
it’s a lot easier to be an entrepreneur than it is to be an innovator.
That, I feel, is the point that should be celebrated more.
For a blue ocean, there is no magic formula – but there is one for a red ocean.
All you have to do is work harder than 50% of all the competition and do it a little bit better.
That’s the equation and all there is to it.
One of the necessary skills in entrepreneurship is being competitive. Tales about a red ocean can be scary. You can be competing against the same product, same price, same budget, and so on.
So, your competitive advantage is you – your skill set and traits.
It is important to never be afraid of your competition or failure because entrepreneurship has no place for cowards. You have to take risks and have to go head-on sometimes so inner competitiveness helps in adapting and changing your approach to remain relevant.
You must be prepared for conflict (not in an armed sense of the way, mind you). If you’re afraid of conflict and, more importantly, if you’re afraid of losing, then the business world is not for you.
Blue ocean can be too much work with nothing to show for
A lot of people talk about how a blue ocean mindset is critical to uncovering hidden opportunities, especially in the post-Covid times of economic crises. While that is true, very few talk about the downsides of such a strategy.
Any way you look at it, a blue ocean is anything but easy.
When all is said and done, innovation is among the hardest things for any company to achieve, especially repeatedly.
Coming up with novel ideas and uncovering untapped, profitable markets is difficult. Even when you find an uncontested market, you can be there too early or be too new or too different. The market may not be ready so you need to educate it, bring clarity, and warm it up to your idea.
In this world, everything is new so you need to thoroughly prepare and arm yourself with tons of patience, persistence, and optimism that your strategy will pan out.
And even then, there’s no guarantee. Other companies from saturated or adjoining markets will be lured.
Equally important to note is that a blue ocean strategy is not about staking a claim to a market and innovating. The way I see it, it’s about being the first to get it right. There was eCommerce before Amazon. There were online internet banking services before PayPal.
In a red ocean, there are different sets of challenges but the foundation is already there. The target audience knows what the product is, you know that it works and what the benchmark is. So, almost by default, you know what you should do to get a piece of the action.
Not everyone has the proper mindset
When I first read Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne back in 2006, it had a profound effect on me. It opened my eyes to how the pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space creates new or greater value for customers.
In short, it’s just one of those books that every entrepreneur should read to gain new ways of thinking and simply be better at what they do.
Still, the core of the blue ocean’s problem is how to create a new market space.
It requires a drastic shift in focus, moving away from the competing mindset (supply side) and settling into an innovating mindset (demand side).
But – innovating is hard because innovation is hard.
You don’t just get to learn a few things, try a few methods, and come up with something new. A lot of things have to align, from skills to emotions, so that the right mix of experimentation and collaboration yields a result.
And let’s not forget – executing new ideas is 100% pricier than doing them after someone else.
A blue ocean is a great dream to have but a red ocean is a realistic place to succeed. You don’t have to be innovative or creative, just persistent and competitive enough to do something just a little bit better.
One of the best, modern examples I can offer is a company called Monday.com whose bread and butter is project management software. The company stepped onto the scene way after Trello, Slack, Jira, and other players established themselves in the market.
Monday.com was more user-friendly, the funnels were better, it was marketed better, and on the whole, it was more efficient than other solutions. As I know some of the people there, I can attest they worked hard to be where they are today – a unicorn responsible for one of the largest public offerings by an Israeli company.
There’s no denying that a blue ocean is a very potent and desirable strategy – but people don’t realize how hard it is to pull off.
A lot of entrepreneurs get hung up on the idea of embracing what is unique about them and their business, then create this vision in their minds that their business shouldn’t be bound to the rules of the competition.
That’s fine up to a point – a point where you diminish your skills and traits that define you as an entrepreneur. That’s when you start to lose, big time.