Reducing the weight of materials in outdoor sports: An example of innovation through shrinkage


Product innovation is mostly considered to be an approach aimed at offering end users extra functionalities, more options, improved performance, and other advantages. However, in sport as in other fields, an increasingly evident type of innovation consists in attracting users based no longer on additional features, but on techniques such as simplification, weight reduction, and stripping down. Adopting a sociological perspective, this article questions the place of innovations through shrinkage in the sports sector. Based on case studies (reasoning using singularities, not about singularities) and mobilizing the principles of the socio-technological monitoring of innovations, we analyzed eight innovation processes in six companies. In this article, we only deal with two of them, primarily rooted in weight reduction programs, in order to describe them in more detail. Ultimately, reducing the weight of products would seem to require identifying the drawbacks of heavier ones, convincing users of the advantages of absence, reassuring them about the alternative option, but also adding elements and rearranging innovation networks. Thus, the sports sector seems to be significantly impacted by the dynamics of innovations through shrinkage, in the wake of other sectors, such as the food sector. Last, the social and political dimensions of these production and consumption trends must also be taken into account. The outdoor sector is therefore a great open-air laboratory for innovative devices that are much more complex than they appear at first sight.

  • outdoor sports
  • weight reduction
  • equipment
  • innovation
  • shrinkage
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