CrossFit Life Lesson 21 – Co-Innovate with Your Customers

We live in a proprietary world full of product secrets and R&D labs behind firewalls and barbed wires. I believe it does allow businesses a certain market protection for new products and enough rewards to keep those products coming…
Every now and then an alternative approach emerges and it changes the game for their industry. This is what happened when Amazon changed the retailing model, Zappos changed web customer service, Linux became the engine of the internet and (finally I’m getting to the point) CrossFit revolutionized how people work out.

I believe what is common between some of the breakthrough business model changes is exactly what CrossFit represents: co-innovation with customers every step of the way. CrossFit HQ is not a secret R&D lab with protected formulas – successful WODs are co-created with affiliates and athletes. Then integrated back to the model. CrossFit Endurance, CF Mobility, CF Oly and the others were innovated by the customers and adopted by HQ. That is exactly how Red Hat builds Linux software with their customers and how all great companies stay close to their customers beyond just the mission statements… A great article on CrossFit’s open source model in CFJ from 2005 here.

All great businesses should have customers working with them to come up with better solutions to their needs. Let’s get our engineers out of the labs, stop talking to each other or their peers and start hanging our with customers, preferably those who just don’t seem to “get it”. They will turn out to be the best source of innovation.
This is exactly what happens to us as part of the CrossFit community. As a result, I never feel like CrossFit is pushing a product I don’t need. Except maybe the burpees…


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