Saturday, February 8, 2014

Has CrossFit found the Blue Ocean?

If you're not familiar with CrossFit, it's the new kid on the block in the world of exercise.  Generally speaking it's primarily repackaged calisthenics, sometimes with the addition of weights supplementing the user's own body weight.  This video provides a more action packed explanation.  Costing upwards of $200 a month for access to a few classes a week places CrossFit on the high end of the price scale.  Conversely these classes do not provide access to the latest in technology, nor an individualized workout, which would take time and effort to develop. There are neither treadmills nor a pool to maintain.  Instead there's a tractor tire, a kettlebell, and a pull-up bar, all of which last forever. For this reason the start-up costs of a CrossFit gym are often 100 times less than a traditional gym. (Not surprisingly lowering this traditional barrier to entry has caused increased competition, with the number of CrossFit gyms quadrupling in the past four years.)

So how has CrossFit been able to charge a premium price while maintaining such low costs? One possibility is their customer inclusive culture, which is valued by the customer, without increasing cost.  Bolman and Terrence state there are several tenets of developing a culture that are broadly applicable to groups and teams:

  1. Specialized Language: CrossFit has developed a specialized language.  For example the gym is called "The Box," and "WOD" is "workout of the day." An incomplete list can be found here
  2. Rite of Passage: Many gyms require a preliminary workout to ensure you are able to take part in CrossFit without injury. 
  3. Stories and Group Identity: CrossFit passes down stories, such as Rhabdo the Clown who provides warnings about the dangers of rhabdomyolysis.
  4. Ritual and Ceremony:  Nearly every gym has a group photo after the workout, which is posted to various social media sites.  

Has CrossFit has been able to capitalize on the value added to the consumer through CrossFit culture and   allow for a premium price? Or is CrossFit really just a watered down personal trainer?
Either way the benefits of developing a culture inclusive of the customer should not be overlooked.   

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