The 'what-ifs'

Jane Kitchen

Jane Kitchen, editor in chief

In this month’s issue of BedTimes, we take an in-depth look at two seemingly different topics: innovation and mattress tape.

Our cover story asks how you foster creativity and innovation in your organization, because without those two things, it’s next to impossible to even dream of the Next Big Thing. What struck me, in listening to both innovation experts and industry veterans, is that sometimes it’s just making a slight change in the way you do things, or the way you model behavior, or the way your team interacts, that can make for big changes.

Something as simple as being open to questioning can change the way organizations—and employees—work. Asking (and being open to) the ‘what-if’ questions, or hosting ‘walking meetings,’ or putting two people together to brainstorm from two completely different roles, or listening when an employee comes up with a seemingly ridiculous idea—these are all simple things that you can do to change the direction of your organization, and foster a culture of innovation.

Business innovationist Jay Terwilliger points out in our story that most organizations are innovative when they start, but over time, they get entrenched in running the business, and innovation falters. Pushing the envelope becomes more and more difficult, and it’s easy to rest on your laurels and say: “This is how we’ve always done it.”

But pushing the envelope is what creates growth, and growth is what we all want.

Take a look at the once-humble mattress tape in our story on Page 33. At one time, it was simply a utilitarian fabric whose sole purpose was to close the seams of the bed; today, mattress tape is considered “eye candy” or “jewelry” that helps tell a story, sell a brand or create price differentiation.

Someone, somewhere, began with a question of “what if?” What if mattress tape was something more than practical? Why can’t it look more like the beautiful, embellished ribbons you see for wrapping presents? What if we made mattress tape in colors other than white and tan? What if we added pattern and texture? What if it was beautiful and functional?

In our up-close feature on mattress tape, you’ll see just how far this product has come, and how designers today are merging fashion and functionality in a big way in the tape business.

But here’s the other, perhaps more interesting question: What if no one had asked those questions? What if no one had seen the potential for beauty and fashion in a simple 7/8-inch piece of fabric? It’s not difficult to imagine that we could still be here, with simple options of white or tan, period.

My grandfather, back in the 1950s, once remarked that he felt sorry for future generations, because they wouldn’t know the excitement of innovation and change that he had witnessed in his lifetime.

“Everything has already been invented,” he said.

Of course, he was very, very wrong, but it’s easy to see how he felt that way—easy to fall into the trap of feeling that way both about the world, and our industry. And of course, it’s no more true now than it was then.

What are the ‘what-if’ questions that you’re asking today? How will you change, or alter, or influence the direction of the bedding industry? What can you turn on its head? How can you shake things up? What direction can you take things in that no one has seen yet? Where are the possibilities—where are the questions that no one has thought to ask yet? And what if you are the one to ask them?

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