Delivering Innovation at every level

Innovation is a driver of sustainable economic growth. From the very beginning, Decathlon has placed innovation at the heart of its product and services offering, creating new, competitive product ranges to support the stability and resilience of our business activity.

We give our work meaning by constantly listening to feedback from our users. Today, they want products that better fit their needs – products that are simple, useful, responsible and accessible.

In 2017, Decathlon decided to integrate innovation at every level of the value chain using several different methods. This choice required that we constantly question our design processes and ask ourselves: How can we inspire and facilitate change, use fewer materials and reduce production costs, and make the product cost less and perform better? How can we ensure it is less polluting and more responsible? To meet these challenges, we chose a strategy of incremental innovation focused on frugality and eco-design. Our design and engineering teams are thus trained to rethink an idea to its simplest expression, even if that means abandoning it.

This integrated approach allows us to continuously improve our products by remaining focused on the users’ needs, so that Decathlon products will be increasingly accessible, ingenious, distinctive and sustainable.

2017 Summary

In 2017, innovation efforts focused on making our methods more pragmatic.

– Teammates formed multidisciplinary communities that promote collective intelligence, the transmission of knowledge, and process efficiency.

– The Decathlon SportsLab research and development laboratory celebrated 20 years of research into the interactions between an athlete’s body and the products we design.

Alive : Dedicated to inspiration and exploration

Alive by Decathlon, which stands for “All Living Innovation Values Everyday”, is a dedicated space located next to the Decathlon Campus store in Villeneuve-d’Ascq (France). It is open to all: sports users, outside companies and teammates.

Designed to promote sharing, inspiration and creation, Alive helps people work through the first phases of project incubation in an atmosphere that encourages big-picture thinking.

More than just a space, Alive is also a broader innovation concept focused on the human dimension of product and service design. It drives us to learn to think and work differently, to cooperate more, to “dare to be ourselves”, to overcome divisions and allow ourselves to push long-held company ideas to their breaking point.

Once their first conceptualisation phase has been completed, creators can compare their project with internal teams or bring together different categories of testers to gather initial feedback and continue their process of improving a product or service.

Different teams offer different opportunities for exchanging ideas within this multi-process innovation centre: inspiration events, lectures, workshops, training sessions, incubator services and exhibitions. This range of opportunities ensures that every need finds a suitable solution.

Among the ideas that the Alive teams focused on this year included rethinking the vision of Subea’s people organisation, developing a range of women’s products for Kipsta and setting up a sensory testing workshop to make zips that are easier for children to use.

The Jugaad method : less but better

The Jugaad innovation initiative is focused on inventing radically new solutions that consume less energy and raw materials. It tries to answer the question: How can we meet users’ needs for a product to be functional while limiting insofar as possible the resources that we use (raw materials, technical handling, water during the production process, and so on)? The first step is rethinking product design, with an in-depth analysis of the materials used and special adaptations to meet sport-specific needs.

The goal is to create a user-essential product by employing simple, clever solutions.

The Jugaad method adopts three main strategies:

Product simplification: using a production automation mindset to limit handling, change materials, reduce the number of materials used, rethink assembly methods, etc.

Rethinking design: product functionality is paramount, drawing inspiration from emerging countries and their way of thinking.

Arpenaz 10 backpack

Action : total redesign of the backpack by using gathers and reducing assembly steps as much as possible. The backpack’s graphic design was also completely revamped to take on board these improvements.

Results :

70 items now fit into a shipping box, up from 30.

A 10-year warranty for the backpack.

Decreased environmental impact compared with the former model.

Price reduced by 25%33.

This focus on frugal design came from a collaboration with Sikana, an external learning and knowledge sharing platform. Decathlon helped create nine videos about using inexpensive and often repurposed materials so that anybody can create a homemade DIY product and sport becomes more accessible for everyone :

"Makers": do-it-yourself for a better grasp of manufacturing processes

The “Makers” are an in-house community of teammates who teach other Decathlonians to make things themselves, promoting ingenuity and stimulating creativity. Making something yourself gives you a concrete grasp of each step of the manufacturing process: starting off by rethinking how the product is used, choosing materials, understanding the design and production phases. Discussions with engineers and experts from other departments also help to identify limitations, giving participants a 360° view of their project idea from the start.
In 2017, 40 new contributors joined the community. They share their know-how during regular workshops (how to sew, how to use creation software, how to make your first template, etc.) and have trained over 1,000 teammates.

SPORTSLAB: 20 years of experience observing the human body

The SportsLab is one of Decathlon’s centres of expertise. Created 20 years ago36 to conduct research on the human body, it is a key part of Research and Development processes.
All of the products dreamt up by our sport teams are subject to rigorous laboratory testing throughout the design process. The goal is to make products easier to use and to ensure user safety and well-being so that sport remains a source of joy.
There are four laboratories with 50 specialist engineers who study everything about the human body :

The “Morpho” Team measures people’s bodies for the duration of their sports activity, giving us a unique international edge.
The Movement Team studies how the body moves and interacts with our products.
 The Thermal Comfort Team analyses how the human body behaves under different climatic conditions.
The Affective Science Team looks at how users perceive and feel about products when they use them, as well as how easy they are to use.