Innovation, according to Peter Drucker, is “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential.” It is the means, he says, “by which the entrepreneur either creates new wealth-producing resources or endows existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth.” This term, “innovation,” can be intimidating. Why? Because most people believe that to be innovative, their idea must be grandiose — something earth-shattering that will revolutionize their industry. The truth, says Drucker, is that “effective innovations start small. To be effective, an innovation has to be simple, and it has to be focused.”

For the past nine years, theFitness Management Nova7 Awards has recognized health/fitness facilities for innovations in seven categories of excellence. Looking back on these innovations, none of these ideas was grandiose. They range from simple promotional ideas to enhance participation among a certain demographic group, to basic policy decisions to ensure better customer service or operational efficiencies. The key is that, however simple these ideas are, they are effective at making these fitness businesses better than they were previously, and better than their competition.

How, then, can you be innovative? Drucker says that “most innovations … result from a conscious, purposeful search for innovation opportunities, which are found in only a few situations.” Four of these opportunities, he says, come from within a company or industry: 1) unexpected occurrences, such as the recent desire to exercise to improve lifestyle (rather than looks), which has resulted in the creation of medical fitness facilities; 2) incongruities (for instance, between an industry’s assumptions and its realities); 3) process needs, such as the invention of a motorized belt, which is now used in treadmills (who would have predicted when the motorized belt was invented that it would be a necessity in today’s most popular exercise machine); and 4) industry and market changes.

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