I’ve seen enough strategy canvases/value curves to know that it’s common to use Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) as a smoke-screen for traditional technical innovation. Let’s revisit the difference: technical innovation is innovation for the sake of innovation. People will say that isn’t true — that they’re adding value — but unless they’re building a fusion reactor, and few are, they’re usually just knocking out digital or physical widgets with no particular purpose.
The most honest tech innovators will admit that they think something is “cool” and they hope somebody will come along and buy it. Sometimes that happens, but it’s a high-risk hit-or-miss proposition that has a lot of unnecessary business risk, and a healthy dose of heartache when buyers aren’t interested.
Create is one of the four-actions framework. It’s one of the easiest for those in the tech field to understand, because it superficially sounds a lot like what’s been done for a long time. Don’t be fooled. Create is more fun than its two difficult to deal with cousins, Eliminate & Reduce, and even more fun than its half-sister Raise, but creating a key factor of a Blue Ocean Strategy offering is challenging.
Create is oftentimes misunderstood so I’m sharing a few of my personal observations. While everything on this blog is my own personal opinion, it is important to understand these observations are not from the book.
Key elements that constitute Create are virtually always rooted in technology. However, the technology is virtualy always transparent. That is, buyers do not see the created technology except as part of a larger offering, and it is always the side-dish, never the main meal.
Let’s examine at the key components of successful Create elements that I’ve noticed in other BOS businesses.
1. The created element is always expressed in consumer terms, the value it adds as a component of the offering towards the buyer, not towards the product, team, nor brand.
2. The created element virtually always relies upon technology.
3. The technology is catalytic to the value proposition. That is, the technology enables the product or business developer to build the factor that adds value to the buyer though the buyer often does not realize the technology is present.
4. The technology is always mature, though is often a new use of a mature technology. Think about strategic groups and alternative industries and focus on mature technology being put to a new use.
That’s a lot of rules, so let’s contextualize them through a case study, the use of accelerometers in consumer products, starting with the Wii. The Wiimote is the magic wand of the Wii; the coolest controller ever invented. Like most Create key elements it relies upon technology, specifically the ADXL330 accelerometer, an airbag controller. Obviously Nintendo’s strategy map did not call for an ADXL330 accelerometer; it called for a magic wand. The same sensor that figures out whether you’ve hit a speed-bump or a concrete wall, that tracks the movement of your car, is also used to track your hand as you wave it around controlling Mario and his cohorts. As auto-makers added more and more airbags the price of the technology dropped low enough that Nintendo realized it’d make a great game controller.
Our accelerometer — also now used in smartphones and tables — is entirely catalytic. It is vital, yet invisible, to the finished product. It existed long before the Wii, the iPhone, the iPad, and everything else but was used for an entirely different purpose in an entirely different industry.
Other BOS companies Create elements share similar underlying technology that is never expressed in tech terms to the consumer. For example, Australian farmers use agricultural technology to make sure Yellowtail wine is Yellowtail wine. There is no plant, pray, and harvest going on there; the Aussies know their grapes.
Similarly, Cirque de Solail requires massively complicated stage management technology: their stage tech is legendary. Yet I’ve never seen a Cirque de Solail advertisement that trumpets the technology: they created an experience, not a technological marvel.
Take Starbuck’s. Think that it is a coincidence that there’s often a Starbuck’s between you and your office, or that the coffee tastes the same everywhere in the world? Wrong. There is incredibly complex geo-mapping technology that goes into that but for those of us strung out on caffeine we don’t care about the mapping systems, only that Starbuck’s is always “on the way.”
And so it goes, over and over again. The technology behind those “Create” factors is vital yet invisible. Blue Ocean Strategy company’s always look for and sell the value to the buyer, and assume that buyer does not care how that magic value came to being.
Think about Create from the value it brings about. Similarly, the tech is vital to bringing out the value and strategists must not forget nor underestimate the reality that some seriously unsexy technology can unleash enormous, inexpensive value to buyers.
When creating on a Create key element aim for a “Magic Wand,” like Nintendo did, but keep in mind it’s impossible to actually produce the wand without technology like the ADXL330 accelerometer. Conversely, my six year-old daughter doesn’t know or care about an accelerometer, but loves her Wiimote.