Six MBAs, five of them INSEAD graduates,are deploying Blue Ocean Strategy, the new way of thinking about business strategy, from their Belgium-based consulting firm Six Paths Consulting.
Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) is a hot concept in the business world. It's the result of a decade-long study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than 30 industries over 100 years, and was first presented in the international bestseller book ‘How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant' (Harvard Business School Press, 2005).
The authors of the book, INSEAD professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne are co-directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute and co-founders of The Blue Ocean Strategy Network.
Six Paths Consulting helps companies to achieve sustainable growth by driving and supporting their innovation initiatives and by strengthening their internal capabilities. Blue Ocean Strategy is one of the firm's key tools. Blue Ocean Strategy covers both strategy formulation and strategy execution: its aim is not to out-perform the competition in an existing industry, but to create new market space or a "blue ocean".
Founder and Managing Partner of Six Paths Consulting Ioan Carpus worked directly under Prof. Kim’s supervision as a Senior Fellow at the Malaysia Blue Ocean Strategy Institute, a think-tank and government strategy consulting body.
Ioan tells us more about why he set up Six Paths Consulting and what it takes to join the exclusive team..
When did you get the idea to set up Six Paths Consulting?
After I left INSEAD in 2007, I went to work for Malaysia Blue Ocean Strategy Institute, an advisory and consulting body dedicated to applying Blue Ocean Strategy in the public sector. This was where I worked with Professor Kim and learned how to apply Blue Ocean Strategy. I knew I would eventually return to Europe and I was excited about the prospect of continuing Blue Ocean Strategy work.
I chose Brussels because it's a great location. It’s really the heart of Europe: not the market centre but there are many multinationals, and international organizations present here. Since we’ve been here, we’ve largely focused on projects in the private sector, although we’ve also worked with one government agency.
You are Founder and Managing Partner. How did the rest of the team come together?
The group came together largely through INSEAD, through friends and friends of friends who are passionate about Blue Ocean Strategy. Many people in the Blue Ocean Strategy network work as individuals focused on training, but not as a company. We saw that it's more valuable if we bring the consulting approach to projects because there is a higher chance of success than simply offering training workshops and leaving it at that. The idea is that we position ourselves as partners with these firms but are in charge of driving the pace of change in the innovation areas.
How big is your team currently?
There are six of us Partners and we operate a non-hierarchical structure. We are also entrepreneurs and are engaged in separate projects. For instance, two of our Partners recently launched a phone app, prevyou.me that lets you know which of your interesting Facebook friends are nearby.
I’m involved with another Partner in providing IT staffing solutions - intelligence.com.ro. We also have a partner called Versatile World which is a web agency that combines design and strategy. As a group we split roles and leverage our own individual projects when we set up teams to work on projects.
What are some of the materials and information that you have access to as part of the Blue Ocean Strategy practitioners that those outside the group don't have?
Being Blue Ocea Strategy qualified, we have access to materials developed by the professors. These materials are a combination of academic knowledge and practical consulting knowledge. I’ve also worked with W. Chan Kim so I have that direct experience of and exposure to applying the concept. There are no secrets to it, it's simply about the experience we have.
Can you share some successful Blue Ocean execution stories?
We worked on a project with a pharmaceuticals company for the launch of a new product for cardiovascular diseases. Blue Ocean Strategy helped to create a new arena to expand an already saturated market.
We had an aerospace project where we worked with a main supplier to aviation companies.
We worked on another project in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods market looking at why some people don’t drink draught beer in the Eastern European market, and found out it had something to do with misconceptions from Communist times, for instance.
What other strategies do you use?
We use a variety of other tools typical in business strategy cases but the important thing is that we offer what the customer needs. One example is the open source tool called Business Model Canvas from a movement called Business Model Generation. It is a product of over 400 authors and from a book that has combined existing theories in an innovative way.
We help companies strengthen their capabilities by providing training in organization restructuring, change management procedures and marketing campaigns. We believe this is more valuable than just handing them an answer. We also use our partner supplier Versatile World to provide web applications for companies to leverage their internal capabilities and engage with customers.
When hiring consultants would you only hire an MBA?
We would want to hire someone who is conversant with the Blue Ocean Strategy approach. We’re still at a non-hierarchical phase so we’d rather bring a Partner with value. We want someone with a great network, who understands business development. We would want an MBA because business school is somewhere different people come together to build their networks.
At the moment, we’re working on proving the method and because of the volatility in the consulting world we don’t want to employ anyone. Employees are the biggest cost so rather than hire someone just to fire them in the bad times, we take on all the risks as Partners.
Do you ever hire MBAs for projects or as interns?
Summer is quite a slow time in consulting, especially in Western Europe, so I don’t think we will be hiring an intern this year. I would be happier hiring an intern at a time I know that he or she will have the maximum learning opportunity.
Who are your main competitors and how do you stay ahead of them?!
Tier One consulting firms are some of them. The consulting market is changing and companies are cutting their consulting budgets because they understand that rather than calling in external help, they need to focus on building their internal capabilities.
We use our training workshops to build up these capabilities. Another thing I admire is how the design world approaches business strategy so we always do our best to bridge that disconnect when offering our services.
You can learn more about Six Paths Consulting on their website.