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Book on business strategy inspires local entrepreneur

One day in 2006, Stephanie Moore Chipman, a Springfield author, lecturer, consultant and entrepreneur, opened a book. She keeps up on technology, market trends and strategies, so it wasn't unusual for her to study business strategies.

A client gave her a copy of "Blue Ocean Strategy," a book put out by Harvard Business School Publication Corporation in 2005. The way to be truly successful, according to the book, is to make your competition irrelevant. Stop fighting over incremental gains in market share; find a new market.

The book's authors, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, studied 150 strategic moves in more than 30 industries spanning more than 100 years. They created visuals to define business success.

In a "red ocean," the market is saturated, and the bloody battle is over incremental parts of the market. The way to be successful is by leaving the red ocean and making your competition irrelevant - to leave a red ocean for a blue ocean.

The authors present Cirque du Soleil as an example. The French Canadian street performers didn't compete for a share of the Barnum and Bailey or Ringling Bros. circus market. Instead, they created an entirely new circus concept. In 20 years, Cirque du Soleil achieved revenues that took Barnum and Bailey or Ringling Bros. 100 years to achieve.

Chipman recognized a revolutionary idea when she saw it.

"I opened the book and it was my words, my beliefs, my values - all the components were there. Before I finished the book, I was on the phone. I was calling to find out what I needed to do to get certified (to teach this)," Chipman says.

Little did she know on Jan. 6, 2006 - while managing home and career - that suddenly she was going to be plunged into the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Blue Ocean strategies, with accompanying study, research, papers, Power Point presentations and a trip to France.

After her initial contact on Jan. 6, Chipman received an e-mail from Blue Ocean on Jan. 14: "We're sorry for the long response time. We're overwhelmed with these incredible dossiers that have been coming in from all over the world."

Another e-mail, this one from the authors, said: "The pool of people seeking certification are excellent and geographically far-reaching from China, to Ukraine, across Europe, across the U.S., in Latin America, as well as Australia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia and more."

Blue Ocean wanted Chipman's curriculum vitae, including full contact details, PowerPoint slide creation for one-hour lecture on Blue Ocean Strategy and Blue Ocean Strategy Essay: maximum length of 2,000 words.

"Talk about testing," Chipman says. "I had to study the book concepts. I was working for so long. I think I was given 30 days. It had to be prepared by Feb. 15, 2006. I got it done and sent it off."

While Chipman was trying to get qualified, Nintendo was already putting the principals to work.

Nintendo's Perrin Kaplan, vice president of marketing and corporate affairs for Nintendo of America said in a Feb. 7, 2006 interview in Forbes Magazine: "Seeing a Blue Ocean is the notion of creating a market where there initially was none - going out where nobody has yet gone. Red Ocean is what our competitors do - heated competition where sales are finite and the product is fairly predictable."

Nintendo used the Blue Ocean strategy to create Wii. Also in the Forbes interview, Kaplan said, "We're making games that are expanding our base of consumers in Japan and America. Yes, those who've always played games are still playing, but we've got people who've never played to start loving it ... These games are Blue Ocean in action."

Back in Springfield, Chipman found out that she had passed the first round. There were oral discussion groups set by April 30. Then there was the electronic exam on May 19, with answers due back by May 21.

When Chipman learned she had cleared all the hurdles, she applied for a passport. She didn't know where she would go for training, but she wanted to be prepared. On Sept. 28, 2006, she went to Fontainebleau, France for a day she describes as "amazing."

"The credentials of the people at the show were so impressive, I was so humbled," Chipman says. "These people run divisions of whole companies and corporations. There were business people from world banks. There were executives from Singapore, and Johnny Walker. It was a chance to be able to see a broad picture of what's happening globally and look at commonalities."

In 2007, "Blue Ocean Strategy" is still on the Amazon Top Five, under general investing. Nintendo and L/G Electronics are using Blue Ocean strategies. There are Blue Ocean stories from China, Korea, Malaysia and Mexico. Frank Brown, dean at the world's second largest graduate business school, INSEAD, is working to create a Blue Ocean Strategy center.

"Blue Ocean Strategy" is now published in 37 languages. The impact on company strategies worldwide is incalculable. Chipman is officially qualified to bring the Blue Ocean strategy to businesses looking to make a strategic change from seeking "customers" to "buyers."

Today, Chipman says, "I'm called from across the globe with others from around the world to discuss innovation and strategies for solving world problems."

She points out that she can be on-site in a company for "a new look at an old problem ... for much less than an overseas trip."

Chipman will also lead groups wishing to discuss the book.

For those who wonder if the Blue Ocean strategy is a flashy market blip, Chipman offers this: "I do not believe it's the 'flavor of the month,' but if it is, it's the best flavor we've had in a long time."