I was considering recently about development, and the ideas put forth in the reserve Blue Sea Strategy especially. If that generalization holds true, then it strikes me that the form of innovation is nearly the same as an old joke that sales representatives use. Two shoe sales men are assigned a new territory – an island in the Pacific which is long known to be inhabited but never been to by shoe salesmen.
The first arrives and recognizes that no one on the island wears shoes. He creates to headquarters to ask to be brought back again. No one wears shoes on the island. Another sales rep is sent to the island. He writes back again to head office thanking them for the great opportunity.
Turns out, no one on the island wears shoes, and his only competition remaining. The point of the joke is that your perspective matters. The second sales person sees opportunity in the known fact that no one wears shoes and sees big sales for himself, while the first salesperson was discouraged by this known truth.
One sees potential customers, the other views no customers whatsoever. An example that are used, and I think used in Blue Ocean, is Southwest Airlines. Now, I have a little of an inside view of Southwest as my lovely spouse worked there once. I believe Southwest was started by people who simply wanted to improve the ability to bypass in Texas – really not much more than that. If you’ve ever been in Texas, you’ll know there are three major towns (Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio) and it is very time consuming to move between them.
Texas is after all a large condition. There were no inexpensive methods to move between these cities, and a lot of business is conducted between these cities. Herb Kelleher among others wished to break the monopoly and poor schedules of the existing airlines, so they built their own. I don’t believe the original objective was to provide a basic, low cost airfare for the normal man, but to make business travel cheaper and easier within Texas. What happened as time passes, though, is that Southwest is known a huge chance to shift the frame of “air travel”.
For quite a while, air travel was expensive and regarded as a luxury. Well, in the Southwest, where you can drive 10 hours but still maintain the same state (believe me I’ve done it), long-distance travel isn’t a luxury but a necessity. Southwest eventually recognized a core group of prospective customers who would normally drive or take the bus and made a decision to bring those cultural people to air travel. We were holding underserved customers that the major airlines did not think were customers.
Eventually, Southwest became for everyone intents a bus that flies, offering good schedules, brief hops, low fares, and pleasurable but minimal service. I’m uncertain that was the intent from the start, but Southwest eventually created its own “Blue Ocean”. Now, this is all a matter of perspective. Southwest did not fundamentally change flights.
Pilots still sit down in the planes, and baggage handlers still fill and unload planes. Southwest’s planes still fly between cities. What they did change was the fare framework, to make it more affordable to travel in a region where long distance travel was just accepted as a fact of life.