Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Innovation



If you haven't already, check out yesterday's post on Midwest Triathlon Life. Kovas talks about a feature on the Bigfoot Triathlon website that allows you to enter your bib number and watch an animation of your performance. It's basically an interactive Map My Run, and they are taking the viewing of your race results to a visual level.

When there is innovation going on, things tend to get interesting.

Let's use popular music as a example. Elvis and Chuck Berry invented rock and roll. When The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds in 1966, artists ranging from The Beatles to The Kinks answered by putting out some of their best work. The Ramones, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols turned music on it's head in the late '70's. And then in the early '90's Nirvana killed off the '80's hair metal bands that had become bloated and ridiculous with excess.

If you don't have this album, you should. Amazing.

It would take a book (and it's already been written anyway) to examine why what happened in music did when it did. That said, it always comes down to a combination of two things - social conditions and business conditions.

I think multi-sport is in a similar position. But the circumstances are different, because I don't think innovation in the sport is being fueled by social or economic upheaval. Rather it's being fueled by passion.

Because I was swept up in the punk movement as a kid, my skepticism about certain things has never gone away. I am still wary of "big", as in big corporations, big media, and big box retailing. It's not about rebelling, at least not any more. It's just that I feel that a lower common denominator means less overall quality of product and/or experience. By the way, "big" and "successful" are mutually exclusive.

So it pleases me to see companies like Newton, Zoot, DeSoto, and Sugoi enjoy success by releasing high quality products while staying true to their roots. The same can be said about Road ID - it's one of those "why didn't I think of this?" products. They continue to improve their line. Have you seen the new interactive bracelets yet? Awesome.

I'm especially glad that a Nike or an Adidas has not made a move to dominate the sport. It's not that either company makes bad products, it's that they have the muscle to shove the products down our collective throats regardless of the quality. As the market sits now, you have to earn your place on the retail shelves. It's a competitive marketplace, where quality and innovation trumps marketing muscle. And the consumers are the winners.

As Kovas's post shows, it's happening at all level of the sport. And why shouldn't it? The cost of entry into innovation, especially on the online/interactive side, is low these days. All that's needed is an idea and the passion to see it through.

I'm not sure what the next "big thing" in our sport is but I am sure it's going to be awesome. I can't wait to see. I might have a few ideas of my own as well....

6 comments:

shel said...

i am a minimalist/ barefoot ultrarunner. the next big thing in my sport is less- is- more shoes, and you can bet your aunt fanny that all the big names are getting in on this. the first big one to come out with a new product is saucony, with their kinvara. i can tell you from reviews and what i've seen of it that saucony doesn't really get what minimalist running is about and the kinvara will not benefit much of anyone. i hope it is a failure for them, and that the other big guys take note. in the meantime i hope to watch vibram, soft star, terra plana, kigo etc make a name for themselves with their quality, truly minimalist shoes.

Kovas Palubinskas said...

Thanks for yet another shout-out (I'm blushing). Innovation is inevitable; however, sometimes I think regression would be the best thing that could happen to triathlon. Wouldn't it be cool to race against someone using the same clothing, nutrition and bike (all sized correctly of course), where preparation, strategy, and effort made the difference, rather than better/faster/more expensive gear? Looking forward to hearing your new idea Patrick!

Patrick Mahoney said...

Kovas, very fair point, thanks. I was looking at this more from a quality of product(s) stand point than performance enhancement standpoint.

You know my stand on doping, that's where I think the issue is.

As far as gear I don't see it as enough of a performance booster. If I had a $100,000 bike made out of some new ultra-light material mined from Uranus that made carbon look like steel, but all I did was just look at it while I ate potato chips and watched the Simpsons, you'd kick my ass regardless of what you where riding. The motor is what matters.

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

I always thought AC/DC saved the world from disco in '79. A hard rock song that the chicks could dance too!

I was a freshman in high school when I first heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" ... it was a life altering event at that age.

I like the comparisons and in sticking with the music theme, right now Triathlon is sort of like the pre-Black album Metallica, it has it's hardcore fans but has yet to go mainstream. But once it does the big boys like Nike will be sure to follow -- Under Armor has started a Tri line of apparel, but they are still a niche company.

Good post man, really got me thinking!

misszippy said...

Coming from someone who began tris back in '98, the sport has absolutely exploded! I can remember doing the local Olympic distance tri and deciding I wanted to go ahead and sign up for Eagleman 1/2 IM, which was 2 weeks later. No problem. Today? Eagleman, and many others, are sold out in less than 24 hrs!

Glenn Jones said...

Great post! Excellence is a natural outgrowth of passion. I spent a lot of time studying this in grad school back in the 80's vis a vis how to get excellence out of people without passion. It's a tough job. But if passion exudes from the top, excellence is the result. That's the common thread in those companies listed.

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