In his 2015 book Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim makes the argument that it’s best to compete where there is no competition.
The argument goes like this: you could compete on being the best, or the cheapest, but it’s much better to enter a market of one. In this case, you’re the only choice.
How simple it sounds!
Here’s a graphic I pulled from Kim’s website, titled Six Paths Framework:
This goes back to finding your unique worldview and point of view that I’ve been writing about for the last week.
What blue ocean contributes is an emphasis on the power of research. In particular, there are two pathways to using research in order to identify your unique worldview, and they are literature review and competition review.
I went to grad school, which means we did lots of nerdy literature reviews whereby we unearthed the texts and articles written on a particular topic in order to identify what’s missing. You could certainly do this in your work, too. As I write more and more about the psychology and neuroscience of buying behavior, academic texts have become a critical ingredient, and offer rigor rarely found in business, let alone business writing.
A review of your competition works the same way. You go out and look at who’s competing in your market, then ask yourself what they’re missing. There are tons of tools out there to help you with this – like SWOT analysis, or other choose-your-own quadrant solutions – but the key idea is to categorize the competition and find openings that will allow you to instantly stand out.
The big challenge in both literature reviews and reviews of your competition, of course, is that it’s much easier to identify what is there than what isn’t there.
A secondary, and possibly bigger, challenge is that consuming yourself in research has the added complication of putting you in reactive rather than creative mode. Reflections is the antidote.
So as you endeavor to create your unique worldview, thereby making your entire business development process more effective and your conversations more constructive, research could be one way to help you find it.