How Technology Can Make Human Experience Richer And Better - A Case In Point

People often see technology as being the antithesis of humanity. I guess this view was created in the mind of Terminator fans years ago (Watch The "I'll Be Back" Scene). The evidence doesn't always substantiate the modern world reality on this point. For example, Amazon's Net Promoter Score was second highest among US brands last year at 76 . You don't speak to a human when buying from Amazon yet the brand outperforms banking giant ING with a NPS of only 48. Perhaps the technical human divide isn's so wide. The point is technology can serve needs and augment human interaction in very impactful ways, creating more human experiences. Helping people reach their potential and contribute when they might not be able to otherwise is the greatest example of the potential technology offers to augment humanity; and its just getting started.

Here's a case in point, thanks to a recent tweet from @AugieNieto whom I follow closely on twitter, with respect to people suffering from disabilities or various physical limitations due to a variety of conditions and situations. If you are in the fitness industry you no doubt are well aware of Augie and his teams fight to progress research around ALS. My colleague and dear friend @LindseyRainh2o has a family member battling the disease as well and we are supporters of Augie's Quest to identify a cure and you should be one to :) . Augie's recent tweet included a TED Talk, below for your review, that demonstrated the power of technology in enabling people to continue to lead meaningful lives despite their limitations ( Thank you Augie). Here's the story of Henry Evans as described n the Ted Talk website.

At age 40, Henry Evans was left mute and quadriplegic after a stroke-like attack caused by a hidden birth defect. Years of therapy helped him learn to move his head and use a finger -- which allows him to use a head-tracking device to communicate with a computer using experimental interfaces.

Now, Evans is a frequent and enthusiastic collaborator with robotics teams who are developing tools to help the severely disabled navigate their lives. He collaborates with Georgia Tech professor Charlie Kemp on using the Willow Garage PR2 robot as a surrogate, as well as Chad Jenkins' RLAB at Brown on quadrotors for expanding range of motion.

As the Willow Garage blog post says: "Every day, people take for granted the simple act of scratching an itch. In Henry's case, 2-3 times every hour of every day he gets an itch he can't scratch. With the aid of a PR2, Henry was able to scratch an itch for himself for the first time in 10 years."

Technology is a great human accelerator. Using it wisely can make a big impact on the lives of not only Henry but everyone. What do you think? I'd love to hear your views. As the health club industry increasingly interconnects technology and human interaction I think its important to keep these real world examples in mind. The potential to create meaningful human experiences by relying on technology in the right way is limited only by our imagination. Do you agree ?

About Bryan

Bryan O’Rourke is considered by many to be a thought leaders on technology, health club and wellness trends. He has been quoted in global periodicals like the Wall Street Journal, and has been published in journals around the world on his views of how technology will create the dawn of a new era of opportunity for the health club and fitness industries. In addition to being an industry expert, Bryan is a technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He has spoken on a range of business and trend topics on four continents. As a contract executive and advisor, Bryan wears many hats, including working for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 700 facilities in the US. He advises successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank, on ACE's Industry Advisory Panel and is CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To join FIT-C visit www.fit-c.org . To learn more contact Bryan here today .

Marketing Your Fitness Business - Do You Care Enough ?

Thanks to my colleague Eleanor Hisey at Fitsomo who shared a post that I just had to use from Gary Vaynerchuk, and to my partner Robert Dyer who spent so much time with me last week. These two along with my conversation with some of Gold's Gyms leading franchisees at the GGFA roundtable on social media last week led to this post.

By the way it meant a great deal to me to be invited by Ginger Collins and the great bunch of GGFA professionals, who I love, to discuss social media marketing at the Gold's convention. Thanks Ladies :). I was particularly excited that Gordon Johnson, along with several other leading Gold's franchisees, were there and asked so many relevant questions. They wanted to know about using social media, yet the conversation was less about technology and more about being human. I'll explain.

In a world where brands are accustomed to only broadcasting or as Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, presenting their message, now consumers want engagement (see his video below and thanks again Eleanor :)). They want to interact. Consumers want to be relevant. Everything we used to think about marketing has ended because now marketing is the consumer's experience. Its not our message and what we want to tell them; its all about what is important to THEM and our recognizing that fact. The "Connected Consumer" trend has really accelerated this because of technology.

This is a very hard thing for many brands to grasp and execute. In a world where many old school CEO's still worry that having a twitter account opens them up to having to answer to consumers, well what can I say ? Anyone who would have to ask if they should have a twitter account demonstrates they do not understand. You see people who don't understand this, at least 90% of the time, must not really care because if they did they'd want to have customers be able to let them know when they are happy and when they are not. Right ?

This leads to my partner Robert and I having many conversations with customers and industry leaders last week both during the Gold's convention and following it. For those of you who know him, Robert is one of the most sincere and caring people you'd ever meet; he's very human and it shows. It was instructive to hear the comments from a highly respected industry leader who following our meeting asked, "Is this how you conduct all of your meetings?" Well Robert was unclear as to what the person met. They went on, "You see I am so used to getting pressured and sold and you did not even have a presentation." (So I might have paraphrased a bit :)). Get it now ? Its not about us its about them.

The bottom line is this, if health club and fitness brands keep broadcasting content around what they do, what they have, and who they are consumers aren't going to connect. We can't use social media effectively if its not centered around the customer and we must reengineer our businesses accordingly. If the DNA of your organization can't "GET IT" then you've got a real problem on your hands.

Watch the video above from Gary Vaynerchuck and tell me Bryan O'Rourke, what is your marketing strategy with social media ? Do you agree with Gary that you've got to change from presenting to working the room ? Thanks for your thoughts and for reading the post.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He works for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 700 facilities in the US and heads up the firms Integerus and Fitsomo. He advises successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and is CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (To join FIT-C visit www.fit-c.org ). Recently Bryan was named to the ACE industry advisory panel.  To learn more contact Bryan here today.

 

The Line Between The Physical And Digital Worlds Continues To Blur

Four years ago I began writing about how the physical and digital worlds are merging . Little did I know I'd be wearing a pair of Google Glass so soon. This has profound implications for the delivery of fitness, wellness and health in general. Consistent with the law of accelerating returns, technology that is enabling this blur continues to roll out at an exponential pace and its becoming quite fascinating. The implications and possibilities are only going to be limited by our imaginations.

Enter MYO, a new control devices that enables the movement of your hand and arm to control displays, devices, whatever. The video is worth a look believe me, and thanks go to my son Shawn for sharing.

This is only the beginning of what is to come and its why I share this recent Ted Talk below by researcher and engineer  Jinha Lee. The border between our physical world and the digital information surrounding us has been getting thinner and thinner and Jinha Lee wants to dissolve it altogether. In his short, gasp-inducing talk, he shares ideas that include a pen that penetrates into a screen to draw 3D models and a computer desktop prototype that lets you reach through the screen to manipulate digital objects.The future isn't coming, its already here. Please share with me your ideas and what you think about these technologies. I'd love to hear from you - Bryan O'Rourke.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He works for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 700 facilities in the US. He advises successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and serves as CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To join FIT-C visit www.fit-c.org . To learn more contact Bryan here today .

As 2013 Approaches Is Your Mind Open To A Radical New Future ?

Our culture is increasingly digital, millennials are a larger global group than boomers so consumers are changing, and technology is revolutionizing industry after industry. When looking ahead to 2013 and beyond, how can you keep pace with the massige degree of change that is happening and is only going to increase ?

The answer lies in keeping an open mind. In my past post, How Does The Fitness Industry Change Its Mindset, I share specific examples of how organizations can maintain openness while forever searching the horizon for what is emerging.

As you prepare for 2013 how are you keeping an open mind ? Watch Google's recent Zeitgeist 2012 video for a year in review below. I think it provides a great perspective and is evidence that the world is indeed changing at a breakneck pace. Keep on searching. I look forward to your thoughts.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He works for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 700 facilities in the US. He advises successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and serves as CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

 

Lessons The Health Club Industry Can Learn From Struggling Retail Bricks & Mortar Brands

You heard the news last week of course, Best Buy is shuttering 50 locations. Conventional thinking says that bricks and mortar retailers, like Best Buy or Sears (here is a long nostalgic list of failed retailers to prove the point) are becoming dinosaurs. Online competitors, like Amazon, are the future because they don't have to invest in physical locations and offer better pricing and selection. Retailers argue that Amazon's competition is unfair because people don't pay sales tax and customers can come to their retail locations, obtain the information they need, and buy online. While the challenges faced by many retailers can be described as such, the real reasons they are failing, isn't about Amazon's unfair advantages. The key problem is that these retailers failed to understand that its about the customer and not about them. These competitors did not see what was coming as the result of technology and evolving customers. Therein lies a great lesson for the health club industry to learn.

The internet and technology in general is as daunting for retailers as it has been for health clubs. Have you been to a technologically advanced health club lately ? Enough said. The point is that while technology has been revolutionary for the retail industry, to consumers it has been mearly evolutionary. Before the Internet there were many alternative buying channels like cataolgues or infomericals. Online commerce was simply the next step in a logical progression; yet many bricks and mortar competitors didn't understand that and as a result they lost their chance to do something about it; this is the lesson the health club industry needs to make note of.

Moving online demands new thinking, new strategies and the integration of the digital and bricks and mortar experience around the customer. It takes new mindsets. But many bricks and mortar competitors, like Best Buy, squandered their ability to create a new distribution and customer service aparatus. Remember last Christmas and the debacle Best Buy created for its customers, as they missed many thousands of orders that were purchased online ? Amazon didn't have such problems. As @LarryDownes recently wrote in his Forbes article, "Why Best Buy Is Going Out Of Business....Gradually":

Amazon neither invented nor appropriated its basic strategies from Best Buy or anyone else.  It simply does what consumers want.  Best Buy does what would be most convenient for the company for consumers to want but don’t, then crosses its fingers and prays.  That’s not a strategy–or not a winning strategy, in any case, now that retail consumers aren’t stuck with the store closest to home.....(Larry goes on to say)...Best Buy is living in the corporate equivalent of what psychologists call a state of denial.  In business, that’s usually the first step in a failure that ends with a spectacular collapse.

Larry's right; doing what customers want is key and in a world of increasingly influential millennial consumers , more technology oriented buyers, consumers with expansive choices demanding better service; many many retailers simply don't get it. So what can this teach the health club industry ? To be successful brands must rethink the framework of bricks and mortar delivery and start understanding what the customer really wants and give it to them: namely seemless integration of the physical and digital experience. How? Check out this book, Unleashing the Killer App; Digital Strategies For Market Dominance, and check out these reports Change Or Die, 9 Things Fitness Industry Brands And Leaders Must Do as well as Industry Trends Health Club Leaders Should Be Watching. There is a bright future for those who can accept things are and will be radically different. For those who don't, they'll be going the way of Circuit City, Best Buy and others. There is no escaping the future; Digital Darwinism will catch them all.

So tell me Bryan O'Rourke, do you think the fitness and health club industry needs to change its mindset ? How do you think that will happen and what do you believe the bricks and mortar retail industry can teach us ?

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He consults with global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee, is President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and a partner in Fitmarc, Integerus, Fitsomo and the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today .