CBI: Have you ever worked with a health club company? If so, could you tell us about that experience?
LB: I haven’t worked with one—but I’ve worked out at several. Does that count?
CBI: So you’re probably aware that the fitness industry is virtually synonymous with fresh ideas and new trends. What about its approach seems right? What about it might be wrong?
LB: The thing I like about this industry is that it’s about transformation—transforming our health, our bodies, our minds, and our outlook. It’s innovative at its core. People who get involved with clubs are, typically, ready to change.
However, I think the industry can be prone to pursue short-term trends vs. long-term innovation. There are a lot of trends and fads, and nutrition/diet “what’s hot” lists. However, true innovation is longer lasting. I’d say that the real change agents in your field are the ones who are coming up with ideas that solve big problems vs. fads that will outlive their appeal.
CBI: You also help companies to “anticipate and activate growth opportunities.” What sort of advice would you offer operators?
LB: As I said, I’d like to see solutions that solve big problems around improving lives—mobility, health, etc. For example, a long-term trend might involve addressing the health and fitness needs of the U.S.’s growing aging population. Perhaps that would suggest that health clubs should have gerontologists on staff, devise solutions for an older body profile, or promote healthy lifestyles vs. weight loss, etc.
CBI: Innovation does seem to be the dominant corporate mantra today. But doesn’t constant change pose risks? How do you protect your core values and innovate successfully?
LB: The purpose of innovation isn’t to create constant change. The idea is to be forward-looking, and to be open to change so you can get rid of what’s not working, and think about how to capitalize on emerging trends. A company can strive to enhance its current offerings, while having a pipeline of new ideas that generate additional revenue. The worst thing it can do is rest on its laurels and hope its current business model will work forever.
IBM and Google identify key trends or “hunting grounds” to focus on for the future, and they innovate around those topics. Why? You have limited time and resources, and you want to place your bets on the areas of greatest opportunity.
This also brings up the topic of risk management when it comes to innovation. All good leaders manage a portfolio of ideas along a spectrum of risk. Google makes incremental improvements to their base business—search and ads—and it also has 10x [massive, world-changing] projects, which involve big, audacious, disruptive ideas.
You need to have both.
CBI: How does the accelerating onslaught of digital technologies inform or impact your theories?
LB: Technology helps us to communicate faster and increases our access to data. We can use apps and other tools to collaborate more easily, and to do more work in less time. But our human behaviors—based on emotions that have to do with risk, fear, power, and control—add a layer of complexity that affects our ability to innovate. We overuse data, generate too many reports, become wed to email, and schedule unnecessary meetings.
I always say, “Just because you can doesn’t, necessarily, mean that you should!” With each new investment in technology, companies should consider whether or not the technology will truly help people do more work, or if it’s merely a way to compensate for complex behaviors.
CBI: We won’t ask what “takeaways” you’d like to leave with the attendees of your IHRSA address. Instead, we’ll ask: What do you want them to do differently when they get back to their clubs?
LB: I want them to make simplification a habit. I want them to start by killing one thing a week—one meeting, one report, one rule, one obligation, one process—to create the space required for change to happen. When it comes to innovation, we actually have more power to make a difference than we think.