Creativity + Persistence = INNOVATION

Posted by Scott Smalling on

When Sleep Geek asked if I would write an article on innovation, to be honest, I was apprehensive because I have a high regard for innovation and wanted to make sure I did it justice.

Webster’s dictionary defines it as:

In-no-va-tion     (ìnne váysh'n)

  1. The introduction of something new.
  2. A new idea, method or device.

While Webster’s definition does a good job of summing it up succinctly, I believe it means so much more. Here are just a few words or phrases that come to mind when I think of innovation or “to innovate.”

Paradigm shift…Breakthrough…More effective…Creativity…Cost savings…Reproduced with natural and/or recyclable materials…Improvement…Catalyst for growth…Improved durability….Allows for a higher selling price…Imagination…just to name a few.

The best part about innovation is you don’t have to be first to market! Just look at the iPhone – they were 37 years late to the cellular phone game and their innovation created a paradigm shift in the marketplace. Suddenly, most cellular telephones became “smart” phones. What happened to the players that dominated the landscape pre-iPhone? They are virtually gone. Another great example is Dyson vacuum cleaners. Their sleek, innovative design and maneuverability, along with their advertised vacuuming power, gave them the spotlight. Where are their predecessors? More important, what happened to the AUSP (average unit selling price) for vacuum cleaners? It went up dramatically and people found a way to pay for it because they made a connection to the innovations.

Tesla Motors, my favorite example, has gone up against the giants of the industry and is succeeding. How have they done it? By creating stunning and technologically advanced electric cars. Prior to Tesla’s launch, electric cars could be spotted a mile away due to their size and body shape. But Elon Musk and the folks at Tesla didn’t stop with just one innovation in the electric car arena. They also created it with high performance in handling and power that can stand up to most German-engineered cars at similar price points. Lastly, and probably the most important in any industry today, is the fact that they created a tech-savvy environment. The 17-inch monitor and control panel is awe-inspiring. They have an app for your smartphone to operate functions remotely. And this cutting-edge technology can be updated via Wi-Fi from anywhere in the world. Oh, and one last reminder... it doesn’t use gas!

If you can dream it, you can do it.Walt Disney

Above, I mentioned the things that contribute to innovation. The antithesis to innovation are things like…Close-mindedness…No desire for change…Believing the statement “that’s the way we have always done it”…Not making time for creativity in your business.

In 2007, I sold my innovative upstart company ComforPedic® to Simmons Bedding Company, not because they offered the best deal, but because of their history in innovation. Simmons has a rich history in innovation. The following innovations are just a few. They were the first to create mass-produced Pocketed Coil® springs, introduce the queen-size bed, the king-size bed, the no-flip mattress, and, most recently, the highly innovative ComforPedic iQ. For more information about iQ’s game-changing technology, please visit

Another key to innovation is persistence. Many people think that when a new product comes to market, it was just a really good idea and then, like magic, it’s out in the marketplace. Sadly, that is rarely the case. When you innovate something new, you have very few protocols to go by. Thus you need to test, test again, and then, when you are done, you need to test again. Test functionality: does it work? Durability: will it last? Peer group studies: will anyone want to buy it and for what price?

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.Thomas Edison

In our field of sleep, innovation can take many forms. Improved conformability, temperature management, functionality, reduction in pressure to the body – the list goes on and on. When we truly innovate and the consumer can experience and understand the innovation themselves, you open up the opportunity for them to become disciples of your technology – similar to many iPhone consumers. When you achieve this, you have now created a catalyst for growth in your industry. 

Growth can be realized in two ways: 1) Consumers will be intrigued by your innovation, and will seek it out quicker than they normally would. Mattresses are commonly referred to as a “grudge” purchase, which means it has to break or get really old before you want to replace it. How many times have you replaced your smart device or TV because it was too old or worn out? Almost never! You replaced it because technology is moving so quickly that if you didn’t replace it, you would have fallen behind. Hence, it can be concluded that innovation will reduce the time people hold onto their mattresses and speed up the purchase cycle. 2) Innovation will allow you to demand a higher price, and people are willing to pay for it. The perfect example is the Dyson®, which costs about $399-$499. Before Dyson, you were paying approximately $199 for a good vacuum.

Creativity + Persistence = Innovation and Innovation = Growth. The best way to innovate is to think outside the box. OK, in our industry, think outside the rectangle. One of my favorite quotes:

“If you want to predict the future... Invent it!”

                                                  -Scott Smalling



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About Scott

As the Chief of Specialty Innovations at Simmons Bedding Company, Scott has a long history of breakthroughs that have benefited the sleep industry. His latest major development, ComforPedic iQ, has been used by thousands of hospitals over the past decade. He continues to focus on discovering and introducing new innovations. Scott lives with his wife and two children on an 85-acre horse ranch in the Pacific Northwest and enjoys boating in the waters of the Puget Sound. View all articles by Scott
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