Innovation Theater: Part Two

In the first post in this series, I wrote this:

If you wait until you realize you need to innovate, if you treat innovation like a once-in-a-while thing — if you wait until you need it to make sure innovation is systemic, systematic, and sustainable — it’s too late.

And I shared a half-dozen red flags signalling the reality (if not the finality) that too late is presenting a clear and present danger. As luck (or the lack thereof) would have it, Inc. published an article this past Saturday with this as its headline: “Peloton Proves You Can’t Keep Up by Cutting Corners”. The crux of the article is this:

Peloton just announced that it is halting the production of its bikes in [sic] treadmills due to the brand’s dying demand. And not surprisingly so. The indoor bike brand had put at-home indoor cycling on the map with its cult-like following of around 5.9 million members, generating a quarterly revenue of $937 million. It did an incredible job of building a market, but at some point, it stopped working to give consumers what they wanted … Instead of optimizing and improving upon its products, it rested on its laurels and sent potential customers into the arms of its competitors.

The brand’s dying demand. Ouch!

The Long Haul

In a brutally ironic twist, Peloton seems to have failed to do what it’s manically animated and overly caffeinated live-streaming instructors screamed over its mind-numbing, ear-drum-shattering music at its customers to do: Keep pedaling.

Flashes in pans stop pedaling. They engage in innovation theater. They talk the talk without ever walking the walk. And they certainly don’t pedal. Conversely, companies that know success is measured over the long haul, never stop pedaling. They never stop thinking, trying, anticipating, listening, experimenting, learning, and creating. They never stop innovating. They know if they stop, the end may not be in sight. But it’s just over the crest of the next climb.

Only time will tell if it’s too late for Peloton. Perhaps they can add the features their customers and prospects want. Perhaps they can pivot and sell their products as a new line of clothes-drying racks or resting places for dirty laundry that hasn’t yet found its way to the washing machine or the dry cleaner. Maybe they can sell off existing inventory for spare parts. I don’t know. If it’s not too late already, I hope they get it figured out before it is.

It they don’t, it’s a fast, painful way down from the top.

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