Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Finding the Blue Ocean: a Cluster experience

Have you ever caught yourself thinking of how you could create a new product, discover a new formula or even build something that nobody has ever thought of? We all dream of finding that sweet spot that will place us in a differentiated and competitive place. In my opinion, the authors of The Blue Ocean were inspired in this inter challenge when they strategized over finding a new market and creating a new set of customers. Now, was that completely utopic, or can we in fact reach the blue ocean in all spheres of work?

When I worked for SEBRAE, the Brazilian Services to Support Small Companies, my efforts were towards strategic positioning of clusters through market specialization. We focused on best practices, cluster strengthening and regional development. And yet, did we reach the blue ocean? Most of the times, we were swimming in red and vicious waters.

Seeking the blue ocean, we aimed new markets and structured lines of actions so that the small businesses could access their markets and clients in a more competitive and sustainable way.
As we matured our project and ways to approach the companies to their clients, we felt the need to apply new ways of thinking and be creative towards what our clusters had to offer and the markets they were focused on.

So we used Design Thinking principles as a strategy of speeding up innovation and market access. Clusters needed to: innovate on products and services; change business models; and get to know their clients from a new perspective. In other words, they needed to move towards their blue ocean.
Innovation worked as a catalyst to the new markets and new business models. The Design Thinking applications were used as drivers to accelerate this process by the use of shared tools with customers and clients, integrated business models – a multitask force, co-innovation – multidisciplined teams, and sinergy and cooperation between players.

It was then that we strategically implemented design thinking on our ICT clusters focused on Urban Mobility (Smart City Cluster) and Enterprise Mobility (Smart Enterprise Cluster).

What did we do differently?!
-               The market calls for their needs on services and solutions – what criteria they have on such demand?
-                Market players were directly involved since the beginning – the need to understand their gaps, usability and opportunities
-                Strategy designed based on the market and specialization of the cluster – a living lab environment

 The response came right through. As we reached emerging markets, we were able to evidence innovation on their product portfolio, process and even market approach. It was all a matter of asking questions in a different way and exploring the big picture.

As we were trying to pass on to our companies new ways to find disruptive innovation and grow, we learned that we have to think out-of-the-box in order to find the clear waters of the blue ocean. It is a matter of simplifying things and refining our view of the surroundings.

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