Searching for Blue Oceans? Go Exploring!

Blue Ocean Strategic Thinking

Blue Ocean Strategic ThinkingSimon Associates’ has been doing work on Blue Ocean strategy for a number of years. As a corporate anthropologist our company is focused on helping companies deal with change: whether that entails finding a Blue Ocean Strategy, using Innovation Games® to better “see, feel and think” in new ways, or changing a corporate culture to adapt to changing times. Executive Street, I was delighted to discover, is a blog forum where I could share some of the experiences that we have with clients or in our workshop to a broader audience.

In this blog I really wanted to lend a hand to so many people who are frustrated by their inability to uncover new growth opportunities for their businesses. Just yesterday in two different workshops several CEOs of mid-market companies had reached a stall-point. Whether they sold office furniture, did excellent landscaping or repaired wet basements, the competition had grown keen and the demand had shrunk. My job is to help them see opportunities differently and then convert the ideas into clever executions-very much Blue Ocean Strategies.

Perhaps you too have found yourself “stuck.” Maybe you even just learned about Blue Ocean Strategic thinking. And you know it is time to reinvent your company—find a Blue Ocean.

What to do? Go Exploring, a key to Blue Ocean Strategic thinking. As an anthropologist, we know that people are not aware of what they are doing. So you cannot easily ask them.

But what if you got out of your office, your own comfort zone, and did one of these rather easy ways to explore:

  • Day in the Life of a Customer: I love to take clients out to spend a “Day in the Life of their Customer.” Think of this as “Undercover Boss” for you and your business. What could you see and feel if you actually hung around a customer? If you went on to a distributor’s site or even a factory floor and watched them make products. What could you see and how would it feel and where are those unspoken, unmet needs waiting for you to discover…and maybe solve?
  • Listening Sessions: Or, if you cannot find a venue in which to hang out, try setting up a session with a client, as we did recently, and ask them to tell you about their business. Don’t sell anything. Don’t even bring the normal sales people along unless they can just sit and listen. What you want your client to do is tell you stories about their business, where it is working well, where there is growth. The one we did recently was fascinating because the client admitted he didn’t have a growth strategy. If he isn’t going to grow, how are you? It is in the stories that you hear the gap between what people are doing and what their problems are.
  • Sit on the Phones with Customer Service. This is an area of untapped opportunity waiting for someone like you to listen in. You can also train your service team to start to pay attention to every call in which they say, “No, we don’t do that.” I can give you three CEOs who did just that and found big opportunities to solve customer needs in innovative ways. Remember in Blue Oceans you are adding value in innovative ways, not just in incremental ways.

I would love to share stories about how you went exploring and found some big ideas waiting for you. Please let me know how it went when you took your entire team out of the office to better “see, feel and think” about your business before you tried to “do” something new. There really are Blue Oceans waiting for you if only you can get past the “We don’t do it that way” mind-block syndrome. Tell me what you’ve discovered!


Andrea J. Simon, Ph.D. is a corporate anthropologist and President of Simon Associates Management Consultants, a consulting firm specializing in helping companies growth through change. More information is available at or friend us at

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