Global Blue Ocean Shift Awards 2017


17,000 people from 89 countries gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the Global Entrepreneurship Community Summit 2017 (GEC Summit 2017) earlier this week. The Summit was kicked off with the Global Blue Ocean Shift Awards with professors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne handing out the awards, alongside the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The goal of the Awards is to recognize blue ocean organizations and entrepreneurs that have made sustainable blue ocean shifts, moving from red to blue oceans, through creativity and value innovation. The winners were as diverse as a national youth orchestra, large corporations, a boutique hotel chain and even a national government.

These are the winners of the Global Blue Ocean Shift Awards 2017:

CitizenM – In the “redder than red” ocean of the hotel industry, entrepreneurs Michael Levie and Rattan Chadha opened up a new value-cost frontier of affordable luxury for frequent travelers. Eliminating and reducing factors that conventional hotels compete on but that are seen as unnecessary by many frequent travelers, CitizenM has opened hotels in major cities like London, Paris and New York and enjoys an occupancy rate of 90 percent across its hotels – a whopping 80 percent higher than the industry average.

National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (NYOI) – To stand apart while keeping costs low, the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq focused on the power of music to bridge the deepest divides, rather than focusing on technical excellence and musical sophistication. Paul MacAlindin, conductor of NYOI assembled a group of youthful musicians who would play original Iraqi music of both Kurdish and Arab origin. It has been dubbed the Bravest Orchestra in the World.


Malaysia’s National Blue Ocean Shift – The government of Malaysia started its blue ocean shift journey in 2009 when it found itself at a crossroads, stuck in the so-called middle-income trap. Since then, applying the principles of blue ocean shift, it has created over 100 low-cost initiatives, rapidly delivering high impact to the people of Malaysia. The Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP), is one of them. As is the case for many countries, Malaysia faced rising crime, overcrowded prisons, and high recidivism rates. Instead of building more expensive prisons, Malaysia created CRP centers for petty criminals, using idle land situated in military bases. CRP has delivered a leap in value to prisoners, their families and society, by offering them vocational training, while keeping costs to the government low. Since it started, recidivism rate for petty criminals has dropped by approximately 90%. The Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Chief Secretary to the Government received the award for working together to successfully implement CRP throughout the nation.

Wawa – In 2009 Howard Stoeckel, its then CEO, saw Wawa drifting into a red ocean. The economy was tough after the global financial collapse, and competitors were catching up. Wawa applied a blue ocean approach to open a new value-cost frontier and established a unique space of their own. Wawa went from a convenience store and gas station that also sells food, to a leading quick-service restaurant and leader in the fast-casual-to-go space that also sells gas and convenience items. Wawa’s blue ocean shift led to per-store food sales higher than McDonald’s.

Kimberly Clark – In the highly commoditized and hypercompetitive bathroom tissue industry in Brazil, Kimberly Clark made a blue ocean shift, creating a huge leap in both value for buyers and environmental sustainability, while reducing costs and achieving higher profit margins. In a country where most people go to supermarkets via public transport, Kimberly Clark created compressed toilet paper rolls that were much easier to carry and store for the customer. As for costs, the compressed size led to a 15 percent drop in transportation costs, a 19 percent reduction in the amount of packaging material used, and a drop in returns due to damage, all contributing to gross margins greater than 20 percent – unheard of in the industry.

From left to right Hong Leong Executive Chairman Kwek Leng Beng, Kimberly Clark former CEO Joao Damato and conductor of National Youth Orchestra of Iraq Paul MacAlindin.

Hong Leong Group – Hong Leong Group was awarded for its implementation of the humanness aspect of blue ocean shift, fostering creativity and a blue ocean mind-set over the last decade among its more than 40,000 employees around the world. Hong Leong Group has given each and every one of its employees the common language of blue ocean shift through on and offline learning opportunities, inspiring their people to own the process and build their confidence in both their professional and personal lives.

Kim and Mauborgne reminded the audience of one of the most important takeaways from their book Blue Ocean Shift: anyone can be an entrepreneur, anyone can create new market space and create new growth. Whatever level you’re at in your organization, whatever the sector you work in, social, public or private, you can make a blue ocean shift.