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Health Club Management

Health Club Management


People: Kirk Vallis

Creative Leader, Coach and Behaviour Change Agent

Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 7
Understanding human behaviour is key for business, according to Vallis
Understanding human behaviour is key for business, according to Vallis
Technology doesn’t innovate, people innovate. But technology is an amazing tool that allows us to move faster, be braver and to disrupt more often

Kirk Vallis is a big advocate of the power of technology to drive innovation. He recently gave a keynote speech at SIBEC UK, sharing his thoughts on how organisations within the fitness sector can create a more powerful culture of innovation.

The majority of Vallis’ time is spent helping Google close the gap between how we know we should behave at work, and how we actually do. His goal is to unleash the creative potential in everyone at Google, helping to create the necessary mental and physical conditions.

Vallis also acts as an adviser, coach and public speaker to clients such as Adidas and England Rugby, helping to challenge the way they think every day.

Health Club Management spoke to Vallis to find out how people in the fitness sector can think and work more creatively.

How can the sector grow?
It’s rare for an established company to disrupt a sector. It’s normally a new player coming to a market, because they don’t have the baggage of traditional thinking or the legacy of ‘how things are traditionally done’.

The health and fitness sector is no different to any other sector. It’s a specialist area where people build a wealth of expertise over time.

While this is great, it’s not good for getting a fresh perspective to face a challenge. This very expertise can potentially be the factor that prevents people from considering new ways of doing things and limits options to solve the challenges they face.

In our day-to-day work, we can all benefit from having our thinking disrupted, even in relation to fairly small challenges. My advice would be to try to build awareness of when you need to suspend judgement, introduce expansive thinking and create fresh connections. If you have that kind of awareness, then you can then do something about it.

What role will tech play?
Technology doesn’t innovate, people innovate. But technology is an amazing tool that allows us to move faster, be braver and to disrupt more often.

You may possess world-class technology but if you don’t have the culture or the mindset to challenge the way you think, the tech will just sit in the corner and do nothing.

Technology often sows the seeds for opportunities but thinking and problem solving remain very human acts.

How can the industry empower inactive people?
Technology is having a major impact on the sector, when it comes to introducing new audiences to physical activity. However, it’s important to not fall into the habit of just looking at what competitors are doing to increase participation.

We must understand what motivates human behaviour and use this insight to bring a fresh perspective. Invention is great, but unless your ideas address a key need, they will never be true innovation.

Gamification is already being found to have the power to dramatically enhance the fitness experience. We’re in a culture of gamification and by diving into a different world, we can explore new ways of thinking.

When thinking about insight, our reliance on data and facts means we sometimes forget to be insightful. Data alone is not the problem; if we can interpret data and unlock insight that other people haven’t, we’ll have a competitive advantage.

What characteristics do future leaders need?
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will end up working in job types that don’t yet exist.

Like all sectors, the future employment landscape for the fitness sector will look very different from today’s.

Knowledge and information has become commoditised; it’s universal and is literally in the palm of our hands. There will be a tipping point when people will stop getting to the top of their industry based on knowledge retention – it’s not just about having all the fact-based answers anymore.

Future leaders will be the ones who ask better questions. They’ll be prepared to provoke, demonstrate genuine curiosity and disrupt, because they have a passion for insight and new understanding.

The best leaders will be those who demand diversity of thinking by creating the conditions for people of all types and from all backgrounds, to collide their perspectives together in a psychologically safe environment. Not just because equality is vital, but because it drives more success.

Kirk Vallis’ Takeaways

Think outside the office
Taking regular breaks during the working day can help to dramatically increase creativity, deep thinking and critical decision making.

If you’re in front of a screen, on your phone, in a traditional meeting room or even in a brainstorm session, you most likely won’t be doing your best thinking or be at your most creative.

For most people, creativity and new ideas occur when they’re in relaxed situations, whether in the gym, running, walking or just hanging out with friends and colleagues, casually kicking a problem about.

Choose how you ‘show up’
Consider how you can bring a bit more of your ‘weekend self’ to business-critical situations to get the best results.

Don’t get wedded to the outcome and instead enjoy having fun with a challenge. Just because a problem is serious or business critical, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy solving it.

Think about the language you’re using with others when you’re trying to build some options and whether it’s truly fostering fresh thinking. Rather than saying “I’ve had an idea, tell me what you think of it”, use a different type of language: “I’m not sure where I’m going with this but can you help me build it?”

Vallis says bringing more of your ‘weekend self’ to work can create better work results
Vallis says bringing more of your ‘weekend self’ to work can create better work results


SIBEC UK 2017 took place on 24-25 May, at the Belfry. Over 150 buyers and suppliers from the health and fitness sector gathered to take part in a series of one-to-one meetings.

SIBEC Europe will take place at the five-star Don Carlos Leisure Resort & Spa in Marbella, Spain, from 8-11 November 2017. Find out more at or call +44 208 547 9830.
Kirk Vallis, creative leader, coach and behaviour change agent on how the fitness sector can create a powerful culture of innovation
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