My gym has recently undergone a facelift. The owner had the lobby tiled and painted with a modern look, bought new furniture, and replaced all the towels. He also had the workout rooms painted to coordinate with the equipment colors and ordered new weights and equipment for the free-weight area.
I happened to be at the gym when they brought in the new Nautilus equipment for the free weight area. There was a team of eight guys to assemble and install the new equipment, and to move and rearrange the equipment that was retained.
What totally surprised me was the lack of a plan for an equipment lay-out. The lead installer had his guys start setting up equipment in the middle of the room. The owner explained how she’d like a different placement of the equipment, but the installer told her it needed an 8-ft clearance for the accessories.
Meanwhile, the helpers continued to take out old equipment and assemble new equipment in whatever place they thought was appropriate. In the end, the television (which is continuously tuned to a sports channel) is blocked from view in about 75% of the free weight area. Clearance between pieces of equipment is irregular and to access one of the free weight racks, you have to walk behind a 4-ft high partition directly under the television, dodging the accessories sticking out from the Nautilus equipment. At least then you can check the scores…
It was apparent to me that there was absolutely no plan for the equipment. No room lay-out with a sketch of an equipment arrangement existed. The entire installation was done ad hoc and without input from personal trainers as to the logical flow of equipment in the room.
The Problem with Ideas
It was a great idea to replace aging equipment with new equipment. It’s likely the capital cost will offset the maintenance costs. New gym weights and machines may attract new members leading to increased profit for the owners.
The problem was that the idea was half-baked. The gym owner ordered equipment without a plan to lay it out or to install it. Most importantly, the voice of the customer was neglected. I don’t want to work out on a Sunday afternoon if I can’t follow the football game!
Does your innovation program have a lot of ideas that fail to materialize into actionable plans? I know a lot of organizations believe that they are “innovating” if they hold a brainstorming session and generate 100 or 200 new ideas in the course of a day. That’s great, but how do you know they will fit? Ideas have to fit your business model and address needs from the voice of the customer, just as the equipment has to fit in the gym’s weight room.
Creating a Blueprint
If I had been the gym owner, I would have taken graph paper at a scale of one square equaling 1-sq ft and sketched the room – a rectangular shape with the width of the room a little shorter than the length of the room. I would have next graphed and cut out the footprint of each piece of equipment. The bench press needs a footprint of 4×4 ft, for example, and the seated leg press needs a space of about 4-ft x 6-ft. I would have shuffled around the models of equipment and checked with a trainer to see if the flow made sense. Is it okay to have all the lower body machines next to one another? Can everyone see the television from each station? Are the free weights accessible for people on the mat or on the benches?
In innovation, we also make blueprints of our ideas. We often use tools from design thinking to ensure we understand customer needs. Instead of shuffling cut-outs of equipment on graph paper, we share prototypes with potential customers to test the “lay-out” of our products. What do they think of the different features? Is the form complementary to the function? What’s missing? Which function is just too much?
We formally call this exercise product concept testing because we are validating various concepts with potential customers. A key output of the product concept test is to clearly understand customer needs and their emotional reactions to the various ideas for a new product. We want to eliminate the bad ideas at this stage – like not being able to see the tv while you’re lifting weights.
Further, an important result of product concepts tests is to understand which functions are crucial to a customer. These are the ones that draw intense emotion, such as “I couldn’t live without it.” Or, “Well, that’s okay, but…” Qualitative responses to features in a product prototype lead the new product development (NPD) team to the deepest insights about a new product. Build this, add that, eliminate those.
How to Make an Innovation Blueprint
In mapping the best layout of gym equipment, we can expect a lot of trial and error. Putting the bench press too close to the fly machine may introduce a usability issue. Putting the rowing station too close to the free weights rack can cause a clearance issue for users. Likewise, making a product too complicated with too many features or too many functions can cause adoption issues.
We must test multiple concepts with potential customers to fully understand their needs and challenges. Sometimes what looks like a good solution might not be validated in testing. It is okay to fail a product concept test and far less expensive to sketch a new plan than make adjustments after the product is commercialized.
There are two ways to learn more about creating an innovation blueprint. First, New Product Development Professional (NPDP) certification addresses best practices in innovation from devising a business strategy to idea generation and to market research for product concept testing. Second, CIOs, NPD leaders, and R&D managers who are committed to taking their innovation program to the next level must participate in the Innovation Master Mind (IMM). IMM is a 6-month peer coaching group that allows you to extend your NPD knowledge beyond NPDP certification and to collaborate with other CIOs and innovation managers. You will realize improved efficiency and growth from LDMM, IMM, or through NPDP certification which entails a deep dive into strategy and NPD processes, including design thinking. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281-280-8717. At Simple-PDH.com where we want to help you gain and maintain your professional certifications. You can study, learn, and earn – it’s simple!
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