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Innovating in Fitness


It would be helpful to our industry if we reframe what innovation actually is. An innovation is any new idea you can adopt that adds value to your product for your customer. This is the description used by the consultants at Ignite Innovation.

Further, we define “product” in the fitness business as the “member experience.” Your product is comprised of plant and equipment, people, policies, programs, business practices, processes and a myriad of smaller elements (i.e. paperwork, class schedules, website, apps, etc.).

An innovation, then, is any new idea that adds value to the member experience. If we are truly adding value to the member experience, then we are adding value to the company, which allows us to extract more value. Value is extracted in the form of higher prices, increased sales of existing products or services, reduced costs, new products to sell, or increased valuation of the business.

As a fitness business, it’s important to adopt an innovation discipline by operationalizing an actual process for innovating, in order to be far more successful at adopting ideas that actually add value.

When adopting new ideas, it is easier, faster and cheaper to add small pieces of value through small changes than it is to add a whole bunch of value with large changes. Moreover, your chances of having successful small innovations are much greater than successful large innovations. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be seeking large innovations, but rather that you should spend the vast majority of your time seeking the small.

We break down innovations into three categories: “Incremental Innovations,” which are the small, rapid changes that improve any aspect of our product; “Sustaining Innovations,” which are larger and often occur through the changing of processes; and “Breakthrough Innovations,” which are whole new business models. 

With so many moving pieces in the daily operation of fitness facilities, there are literally hundreds of innovations just waiting for you to execute. This is why we say the majority of your time should be on Incremental Innovations. We recommend you create a list of key areas of your operations to be inspected, (i.e. sales process, cleaning processes, equipment repair, employee integration, etc.) better understood and improved upon, with the idea of adding value to the member experience. 

Wouldn’t it be great if every member had a fabulous experience with every visit and was building an exercise habit from their first visit? This is the intended output of innovation practices. The inputs that make this happen are quite literally the number of new ideas that you adopt that add value to the member experience.    


Blair McHaney is president and CEO of MXM, Medallia’s partner to the fitness industry and the thought leaders on Operational Customer Experience Management. For more information visit mxmetrics.com.


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