Transferring Innovation

15 Jul

We regularly see innovation become the norm in one field and then transfer to another.  Today’s post is about this type of idea, taking innovation from (of all places) the ski & snowboarding industry to automobiles.

So let’s start with some history.  Our story begins in 1995 with a garage-based start-up called Line Skis.  They were eventually bought out by a larger manufacturers – K2 but to this day are operated independently.  Their mark on the ski industry has been immeasurable.

The catalyst behind Line’s creation and our mission still today is the simple concept that a skier needs innovative product to progress their riding and the sport.  All of today’s most popular action sports grew in popularity thanks to this evolution in the 80’s and 90’s.  Unfortunately, this was not the case with our favorite sport of skiing.  Through the years, ski designs hadn’t changed outside of graphics and model names.  They were all long, pointy, straight, stiff, essentially designed for elite Olympic racers to go faster on ice around poles wearing spandex.

This was one of the most popular skis of the time.

In the 90’s, skiing was a declining industry.  Snowboarding was pushing forward as the cool sport for youth.  Line changed this.  They were innovative in two ways:

First, they borrowed ideas from snowboard design to create ‘twin-tip’ skis which were more forgiving, fun in the parks and basically bad-ass.  Additionally, Line moved away from the boring geometric shapes and stripes of the day to customized, hand-drawn graphics.  The ski became a canvas for the artist – a work of art; the design, an extension of the skier.

Nowadays Line has gone mainstream.  As previously mentioned, they were purchased by K2 and are now sold around the world.  Other manufacturers such as Salomon and Rossignol have adopted the same style with twin-tip skis and gnarly graphic options for every type of skier.  The boring geometric shapes and stripes have been left to the history books and for the first time in years, skiing has gained ground on snowboarding among youth.

Here we come to our crossroads.  Like ski manufacturers of old, North American auto-makers are losing out to foreign manufacturers (snowboarders in our analogy).  Innovation is necessary to move the industry forward.  Back in the day, Line’s tagline was “Because Skiing Needs A Future” – couldn’t the same apply just as easily to Ford, GM or Chrysler?

Cars today are designed with solid colours and a few chrome highlights.  What if auto-makers were to use the vehicle’s body as a canvas for artists, just like Line did with skis 15 years ago?  Your car would become an expression, a statement of who you are, more than the have or have-not symbol that dominates the auto industry today.

A work of art.  A timeless, priceless masterpiece.  Leave the solid colours to the competition.

You don’t need a Corvette to turn heads.

Also, please check out http://www.lineskis.com – they’re awesome.  If you’re curious, I own the 08/09 blend,  pictured here.

Edit:  What do you do if you’re an auto-maker who doesn’t want to do this across your extensive product line?  Update one line and use it as a prototype.  See what the reaction is like and go from there.  OR make it an option and market it as a premium upgrade.

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