Blue Ocean Shift Tools

In my previous post on Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing, I shared the differences between blue and red oceans and the four principles of blue ocean strategy.  In this post, I outline blue ocean elements and tools.

The earlier post mentioned humanness.  Humanness has three elements:

  • Atomization:  Allowing people to know something is achievable by making larger, daunting tasks attainable by breaking them into smaller pieces.
  • First-hand discovery:  Every team member thinks in new ways and experiences. 
  • Fair process:  This is achieved through engagement, explanation, and clear expectations.  Engagement gets stakeholders in the decision-making process.  Explanation means sharing a deep dive on why the group is passing on some ideas.  Clear expectations mean what it sounds like; everyone understands what’s expected and the objective measure of success.

Five tools implement a blue ocean shift:

  • Pioneer-migrator-settler map:  This tool assesses how an organization’s offering fits in the overall market.  It breaks customers into three groups: pioneers—customers who love your product, settlers—customers who view your product about the same as your competitors, migrators—customers in the middle.  Draw a rectangle with three sections.  On the bottom, list your settlers.  In the middle, list migrators.  At the top, list the pioneers.  Next, draw circles that represent the revenue each offering generates.  Bigger circle = more revenue.  Where is the bulk of your business?  How can you make pioneers larger and flip migrators to pioneers?
  • Strategy canvas:  The strategy canvas rates your offering against your top competitor.  To create a strategy canvas, put the top ten to 12 competitive factors on the x-axis.  On the y axis, make a scale of one (bad) to five (best).  Take one of your offerings and rate each for each factor.  Draw a line through your and your competitor’s data points.  How do you stack up?  Do the curves roughly match?  If so, it’s a red ocean.  If you’re consistently below, they have the better offering.
  • Buyer utility map:  This is a six-by-six table.  Label the columns purchase, delivery, use, supplements, maintenance, and disposal.  These columns represent the buyer’s life cycle.  Label the rows customer productivity, simplicity, convenience, risk reduction, fun/image, and environmental friendliness.  Answer questions like:  What’s the convenience of purchasing your product?  Where are there opportunities for innovation?  What are areas that are pain points?  How environmentally friendly is it for a customer to dispose of your product?
  • Six paths framework:  This tool generates ideas.  The first path questions why a buyer chooses one option over another.  For example, why do some investors use a self-service website instead of using a financial planner?  The second path looks at your specific industry.  For example, why does a buyer choose one offering over another?  Is it cost, convenience, or something else?  Path three evaluates the chain of buyers.  Who is involved with the buying decision?  Is it the ultimate end user?  Who are the ignored people in the buying process that you could target?  Path five asks how this purchase fits in the big picture.  Is this a stand-alone purchase or part of something bigger?  Path five encourages comparing emotion and functionality as it relates to the buying process and production.  Path six looks at things outside your control that could impact your organization (think weather for a farmer).
  • The six paths framework identifies opportunities.  The authors give us a final tool with the four actions framework to break them down into activities.
  • The four actions framework looks for opportunities.  What is something taken for granted to eliminate?  The book shares a hotel chain called CitizenM, where they got rid of the front desk and replaced it with a self-serve kiosk.  What is something to reduce?  Back to the hotel example, they reduced the room size realizing most travelers don’t hang out in their room.  Where can industry standards be raised?  At CitizenM, this meant soundproof walls and high-quality beds.  Where are there opportunities to create?  At CitizenM, ambassadors replace front-desk workers and are available throughout the hotel to help guests, and because all rooms are the same, they used prefabricated rooms.

The last step shared by the authors is a blue ocean fair.  Invite top leaders to the fair.  At the fair, start with a recap of your current red ocean.  Share why a shift makes sense.  Next, come presentations on new blue oceans.  Each blue ocean idea should have a tagline.  Each presentation should include a strategy canvas and the four actions framework.

When presentations finish, it’s time for the fair.  A station represents each blue ocean idea.  Stations have posters or product prototypes.  Blue ocean working group members can be at their respective stations.  The fair concludes with top leaders voting on the ultimate idea.

Blue ocean away!

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing

I’ve just finished Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing.  It has a lot of info.  So I’m breaking it into a couple of posts.  Here’s a recap of the first half of the book:

  • Red oceans are hyper-crowded and competitive, and blue is entirely new markets or models.
  • The two primary red ocean strategies are value-driven by giving exceptional service or low cost.  The blue ocean strategy focuses on unserved markets.
  • Beyond looking at unserved markets, a blue ocean approach uses “humanness” to engage employees to make the change and tools to turn a blue ocean idea into an offering.  Humanness is recognizing people’s fears and needs for a purpose. 
  • Blue ocean uses non-disruptive creation where a market isn’t destroyed or replaced but is a net new market
  • To illustrate the four pillars of a blue ocean strategy, the authors share the story of Comic Relief.  First, Comic Relief took an entirely new approach to fundraise and avoided previous typical fundraising approaches like galas.  Second, blue ocean approaches don’t try to beat competitors; instead, they have new competition through creating a new market.  In the Comic Relief example, they used “Red Nose Days,” where money was raised through small donations, not significant events.  Third, a blue ocean approach looks for a new market.  Comic Relief meant focusing on everyday people buying red noses instead of wealthy donors at galas.  Fourth, they empathized with people’s concerns and shared their role in making it all happen.

I’ll cover the key elements and tools to make a Blue Ocean shift in the next post.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Congratulations To Intertech STEM Scholarship Winner Alexander Chambers

One of the Intertech Foundation’s focuses is the inspiration of young people towards the building of science, engineering, and technology skills. To further that pursuit, the Foundation has selected two STEM scholarship winners for 2021, each excelling in Math and Science, just graduated from high school, and pursuing college studies in computer science. We’ve long believed in the importance of giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve our customers. The Intertech Foundation STEM Scholarship is just one of the ways we have chosen to do this each year, offering a $2,500 scholarship, and this year was no exception. Amidst a challenging landscape, what resonated with our Grant committee was the hope and excitement the applicants have for our future. Join us in getting to know our scholarship recipient for 2021, Alexander Chambers.

Congratulations to Alexander Chambers


Alexander, a senior graduating from Valley High School in Clive, Iowa, a National Merit finalist, and the concert band lead trumpet player, will be attending Iowa State University in the fall, pursuing a degree in Software Engineering. One thing that stood out to us about Alexander was his interest in developing new ways to defend and protect people’s personal data, an area we at Intertech focus on in every aspect of every project. His appetite for community work and focus on Calculus, Computer Science, and Chemistry have set him up to achieve his goals, and as the Database Lead for the school’s computer club team, competing at the Cyber Defense Competition at Iowa State University, we have confidence that Alexander has a bright future.

Find out more about this young graduate through our scholarship winner Q&A session included below:

Q: When did you first decide you wanted to be involved in Computer Science?

That would have to be in my sophomore year of high school. That year was the first time that I took a computer science class, introduction to programming fundamentals. After that, I knew that I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about programming and computer science.

Q: What was the first program you ever wrote?

The first program I ever wrote was a game that I created on the website, Scratch. In my game, you were a butterfly trying to dodge objects as they came toward you. I remember really struggling to make the game function, but I was very happy once I finally got the code to work.

Q: Which educational or extracurricular experiences during your k-12 years helped you decide on the field of Computer Science?

I would say that all 4 of the Computer Science related classes that I took in my high school years really helped motivate me to continue my education into college. Outside of school, it would have to be the Cyber Security club, Hyperstream, where I first became interested in Cyber Security.

Q: What school have you selected to attend?

Iowa State University. (ISU)

Q: Why did you decide on this school for your undergraduate education?

I chose to go to Iowa State University because of all the colleges in the state of Iowa, it has by far the best Engineering college, more specifically, it has a high quality Software Engineering program.

Q: What is your dream job after college?

After college, I hope to work at a progressive company that is on the cutting edge of innovation. I want to be working on the newest and toughest problems in the technology world.

Q: Tell us something about your time as database lead while involved with your computer club Hyperstream?

The club Hyperstream was probably the highlight of my sophomore year. This club was the first time I applied coding concepts outside of the classroom. While a lot of the things that I learned in class were helpful, for the most part we had to learn completely new concepts, including how to use the language Django and how to navigate in Linux.

Q: Please describe the Silvercord Volunteering Program and how it has impacted you?

My involvement in the Silvercord Volunteering Program has helped me become more invested in my community. It has helped me give back to the community who has supported and helped me throughout my high school years. It also showed me just how much hard work and effort is required to make this community as special as it is.

Q: And finally, would you be willing to share your thoughts about the value of the Intertech STEM scholarship to your academic journey?

The Intertech STEM scholarship will help me greatly on my academic journey through higher education. This scholarship will help allow me to stay focused on my studies rather than worrying about how to pay for my education.

Congratulations To Intertech STEM Scholarship Winner Yahaira Irizarry

Every year brings a host of qualified applications from talented college-bound high school students across the country who are interested in pursuing a degree in computer sciences. This year was no different. Amazed by these young individuals’ drive, inspiration, and accomplishments, picking among so many qualified applicants is always a struggle. But after a long year with COVID, and facing so many challenges and unprecedented situations, these 2021 graduating seniors have certainly all exceeded expectations. Their unwavering excitement to take the next step and pursue their goals was an inspiration to us all at Intertech, and we can’t wait to see where these qualities take them in the future! In light of this, for the second year in a row, we decided that this year, we would choose not one, but two, recipients for the 2021 Intertech Foundation STEM Scholarship. Join us in getting to know our scholarship recipient for 2021, Yahaira Irizarry.

Congratulations to Yahaira Irizarry


Yahaira, a senior graduating from Olympia High School in Orlando, Florida, holder of the Microsoft Office Specialist Certification and treasurer for the Advanced Computers and Coding Club, will be attending the University of Central Flordia in the fall pursuing a degree in Computer Science. Numerous things stood out to us about Yahaira was her strong work ethic, and passion for life. These traits were clearly showcased by the number of internships and volunteering opportunities she embraced, along with her achieved knowledge of multiple coding languages critical to her field of study. In the future, this hard-working and passionate graduate hopes to be the first generation of college graduates in her immediate family and have the opportunity to use her degree to help inspire other women into STEM careers.

Find out more about this young graduate through our scholarship winner Q&A session included below:

Q: Why did you decide you wanted to be involved in Computer Science, particularly after being so interested in culinary arts?

While culinary arts was something I was genuinely passionate about in my youth, the world of computer science, as discovered through my family purchasing a computer, was what had changed my mind about my future. Knowing that I could become a part of something so much larger than myself and having the ability to change the lives of others gave me a newfound purpose in life.

Q: What was the first program you ever wrote?

My first actual program was a text adventure game that I had created in Python for a project during a summer coding course I took prior to my high school sophomore year. I had spent a few days’ worth of time on the game, and I created several outcomes that made the experience unique to every player.

Q: Which educational or extracurricular experiences during your k-12 years helped you decide on the field of Computer Science?

While I had taken several coding classes prior to my first real Computer Science classes, the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles class I had taken in my junior year was what had convinced me to go into the field. Similarly, my involvement as the treasurer of my high school’s Advanced Computers and Coding Club and working with my similarly-passioned peers further sparked my enthusiasm to pursue the field.

Q: What school have you selected to attend?

The University of Central Florida (UCF)

Q: Why did you decide on this school for your undergraduate education?

UCF has a great Computer Science program with favorable professors that I am very confident will help me reach my goals in the future. I am also familiar with the school through having friends and family who currently attend it.

Q: What is your dream job after college?

After college, my dream job is to become a software developer at a tech startup or small company. Joining a small, close-knit team as opposed to a large one and seeing the product of my efforts directly affecting a small-scale project rather than playing a smaller part on a larger-scale one would make me feel far more accomplished with my work.

Q: What were the highlights of being involved in the Advanced Computers and Coding Club?

Advanced Computers and Coding Club has been great in not only teaching me many practical skills pertaining to computers and coding, but also in a grander scheme what it is like to collaborate closely with others on such Computer Science-related projects. Being exposed to a team environment and working on hardware and software-related projects was not only fun but kept me inspired to keep doing so, and thus to push myself to become a better team member and developer.

Q: Please describe what you have learned in the social media internship you have been involved in for the past year?

Working with my non-profit, Women on The Rise, as a social media intern has been incredibly eye-opening into the world of social networking, both in personal and business aspects. While I have learned a lot about the practical leaps and bounds the development of social media has caused on the business world particularly, I have also learned a lot about the problems regarding today’s social media sites, such as the lack of real personal connections starting to become apparent on these platforms. Ideally, the startup I would join as a software developer would address these issues head-on, as it is a topic I’m greatly invested in.

Q: And finally, would you be willing to share your thoughts about the value of the Intertech STEM scholarship to your academic journey?

Receiving this scholarship has reminded me greatly of how nothing can or will stand in the way of my dreams, and how despite all hesitation and insecurity I may face, I am far more capable than I realize I am. I am honored to receive such an award, and it will help me immensely to pursue Computer Science and will allow me to focus on my studies much more.

Thank you, Yahaira, for applying for the Intertech STEM Scholarship. We look forward to hearing about many great things from you in the future!

Extreme Ownership, How US Navy Seals Lead and Win

In Extreme Ownership, Jacko Willink and Leif Babin, Navy SEAL task unit leaders, relate military principles and tactics to business leadership.  In the past, I shared a summary of their recent book, The Dichotomy of Leadership.  Here’s a few minute overview of their original book Extreme Ownership along with some of my thoughts:

  • At the end of the day, all leaders are responsible for success or failure.  As Jim Collins shared, good leaders look out a window when there’s a success (i.e., you give praise) and when there’s a problem, you take 100% of the fault.
  • State the why when sharing goals or missions. Willink’s superiors said he’d be responsible for taking Iraqi soldiers on every mission; his initial thought was “no.” Then he understood the why.  If Iraqis couldn’t protect their own country, the US could be a permanent presence in the area.  For more on “why,” check out Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
  • When asked to do something by your leader and unsure why it makes sense, ask questions to understand.  Without understanding, it will be hard to be 110% behind the mission or goal.
  • When thinking of who’s on the “team,” look for the big picture.  In the book, one of the authors extracted his team from a mission in Ramadi, Iraq.  He led his team on a risky mission to get out of the city during the day.  In the end, they made it, but his commanding officer asked why he didn’t enlist a nearby SEAL team to provide coverage.  He admitted he was wrong and was thinking too narrowly about who was on his team.
  • Prioritize and execute.  In the book, there was a mission where it was a shit show, and many things went wrong at the same time.  As leaders, when this happens, it’s our job to be calm, prioritize, and execute.  In the book, they share the SEAL mantra of “relax, look around, make a call.”
  • When planning, to be successful, identify and mitigate risks. A complete communicated contingency plan increases the odds of success because everyone knows what will happen if things don’t go as planned.
  • Decentralize management.  Any person can manage six to 10 people.  If you or your leaders have bigger teams, break them down to this size.  Let them make decisions.  As a leader and friend of mine said many times, lead from behind and manage from the sides (i.e., let your leaders do their jobs and if they’re doing it well, stay out of the way.  If not, guide them).
  • Whether upstream or downstream, we can’t fault someone for not knowing something we didn’t tell them or answer vital questions they didn’t ask.  When in doubt, overcommunicate.