Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Changing the rules

How often have you heard the phrase, “Rules are meant to be broken”? I have to admit I have been a king rule-breaker, especially around my teens and, ok, my twenties. Breaking rules brings up one big challenge though: you just end up being defined by the rules you tried to break in the first place. These days I don’t want to just break the rules. I want to change them.

The people who turned this idea into an art were W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne with their book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant. My favorite example in the book is Cirque du Soleil. They changed the rules of the circus. They dropped the animals and kept the extraordinary physical skills, dropped the sawdust and opened theaters, dropped the circus menu format and told stories. Amazing stories of dreams and magic and emotion. Lots of emotion. They added to the attention-grabbing spectacle of the traditional circus, the attraction drama of great theater. That’s a lot of rules to change in a business that has defended its traditions for centuries. The rewards for Cirque have been huge, with global audiences and the inspiration of great artists like Canadian theater director Robert LePage.