Athletic footwear keeps getting smarter. The latest entry into the shoe-with-a-sensor category pioneered by Adidas is Xiaomi, China’s rising electronics company, and sportswear giant Li-Ning.

The two companies formed the first collaboration between sports and smart technology in China—creating smart shoes competitively priced at about $32. A higher-end model costs about $63. The Li-Ning Smart Shoes, which hit the market in July, feature Xiaomi-supplied devices: built-in military-grade motion sensors that collect performance metrics and a Bluetooth fitness tracker that sends the data to the user’s smartphone.

Shoes have been going high-tech for decades. In 1984, Adidas introduced the Micropacer: the first smart shoe with a built-in sensor Share on X.  Nike partnered with Apple in 2006 to launch the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit, which featured the first built-in wireless activity tracker for training shoes.

Adidas achieved another landmark in 2011 through the miCoach SPEED_CELL, the first device that captured information from 360-degree movement. Nike responded a year later by launching Nike+ Pressure Sensors, which had one function previous sensors lacked: rechargeability.

Xiaomi and Li-Ning introduced Smart Shoes amid fast times for the global athletic footwear market. It’s projected to reach $87 billion by 2020, up from $80.5 billion in 2015. The Chinese companies have something else going for them: few competitors near their price point.

Nike began phasing out Nike+ Sensor shoes last spring, with only one model available for $110. Adidas continues to sell data-collecting devices but for more than twice the price of the Li-Ning Smart Shoes—not to mention that users also must purchase sensor-compatible shoes.

Western consumers looking for cheaper options will have to wait. Li-Ning has not said whether it will market its smart shoes outside of China.

Reinvent or Face Disruption

For a business to disrupt the market—or just avoid being disrupted—executives must focus on reinvention, says a prominent entrepreneur and keynote speaker.

“All of us need an additional title, an unwritten one: that of disruptor or business artist or entrepreneur,” Josh Linkner, chairman and co-founder of Fuel Leadership LLC, told more than 5,000 business leaders at the 2015 American Society of Association Executives’ annual meeting and exposition. His company provides one-day leadership training conferences.

Having successfully established four technology businesses that collectively sold for more than $200 million, Linkner became “obsessed” with five different ways to drive innovative thinking and successful reinvention:

1. Get curious. Ask why to uncover overlooked assumptions or behaviors that usually hold potential for disruption.

2. Crave what’s next. Employ a future-oriented perspective to avoid falling into the trap of complacency or risk-aversion.

3. Defy tradition. Try new things so innovative experiences can become what make your business unique and successful.

4. Get scrappy. Businesses of all sizes should adopt a startup mindset to find unconventional solutions with limited resources.

5. Push boundaries. Avoid settling for incremental changes by thinking bigger to drive greater transformations.


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