Monday, April 20, 2009

A Blue Ocean Strategy (Again)

It's interesting to see how some people have seized on Kim and Mauborgne's Blue Ocean Strategy to disguise their strategic flimsiness, enhance their fading looks, or baffle the outside world. Kim and Mauborgne are respectable researchers from INSEAD, and they have spent a lot of time looking at 150 case studies in retrospect.

As with any historical or psychohistorical research, it's possible to frame the past in a paradigm of our own choosing. That's why the Dark Ages never quite lost that sense of desolate misadventure even though they were never really dark. Of course, modern scholars try not to use that abused term.

The same thing seems to apply to Kim and Mauborgne. It is of course clear that a competitive approach accrues to the company (or state, or institution) which markets a product (or uses a process, or makes a tool) that nobody else does. It is equally clear that a 'blue ocean' — the conceptual zone (or area of knowledge, or way of knowing) in which one has no competitors — will one day turn red as multiple competitors appear.

So what is new? Well, the answer seems to be that you can publish old stories in 41 languages if you're from INSEAD and sell hundreds of millions of copies.

The problem, as I've said before (I think in two other posts), is that in this age of globalism, blue oceans are more like blue puddles. They turn muddy and then red in no time at all. But the heinous and subtle criminality of likening an educational institution to a company using a blue ocean strategy has serious consequences.

Why? Because if you run a school and say you are using a 'blue ocean strategy', it means that you are deliberately seeking to avoid competition and make profits from your monopoly. Anyone who has read the Kim & Mauborgne book would see that straight away. In some cases, we've come to accept that some institutions (like Harvard, for example) may indeed seem to want to become supreme players and thus suck even more capital out of their global 'neighbourhood'.

But only a vastly cynical person would run a high school with this kind of idea in mind, especially when one has already a superior brand. Rather, such an institution should go for self-sustaining excellence which doesn't come from doing the educational equivalent of manipulating dubious derivatives. Dressing up somebody else's wine in new bottles is not quite the same as a blue ocean strategy.

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Blogger Sorrows said...

Subliminal messages FTW. Like History HL says, "Read the subtext!"

Monday, April 27, 2009 1:06:00 am  

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