Waiting to Bloom

Oct 30, 2020


It is hard to wait for a good plan to unfold, what can impatient or discouraged leaders discover from cotton blossoms, boll weevils, and denim jeans?

Doesn’t everyone have a favorite pair of jeans dyed to the perfect shade of indigo blue? Actually, they were called waist overalls until the 1960’s when our hipster Baby Boomers started calling them jeans.1 The ingenuity of these denim pants was more about durability than comfort, and more specifically, the reinforced seams and copper rivets. It was almost 150 years ago, when Jacob Davis asked the man supplying him with cotton cloth for his overalls to help him financially secure a patent for his design.2 …We know, now, that Levi Strauss agreed.

Wait, let’s back up a little, cotton doesn’t just grow on trees. The natural fibers woven into your beloved cutoffs come from cotton plants. In fact, “you need two plants to have enough cotton to make the denim needed for an average pair of five-pocket jeans.”3 As you might expect, the soil is carefully prepared. The soil’s temperature and moisture level are monitored informing farmers when to plant cotton seeds.4

What else happens during the 22-week growth cycle of cotton that leaders need to know?

  1. Bloom First: After about 65 days, delicate white cotton blossoms deepen to pink and then dark red. The green-colored cotton boll, now fertilized, develops. It is in the boll, that the boll weevil (¼” in size) could breed, capable of destroying an entire crop.5 Leaders: your initial efforts will bloom, you must stay vigilant against the boll weevils.
  2. Unexpected Harvest: The white fluffy clump of cotton doesn’t emerge until the once deep green-colored boll turns yellow and splits open. The cotton continues to dry and fluff before it can be harvested.4 Leaders: don’t expect all fruits of your labor to look like sweet berries, the indication of your progress may look like a dried-out cotton boll.
  3. Measure Output: These days, boll weevils are almost completely eradicated, and farmers use arial drones to scout field conditions along with GPS to “measure and map the output of the pima [cotton] plant.”4 Leaders: the quality and volume of your output is directly tied to what you track, evaluate, and measure.

Our efforts bloom first, then require our fervent protection. The fruits of our labor may not be glamorous, yet they are no less valuable. We can increase our yield by tracking and responding to the field or market conditions. Levi Strauss & Co. leveraged many of these same principles when it “turned denim, thread and a little metal into what has become the most popular apparel on earth.” Davis, the designer of the first waist overall, protected his Levi’s when he sewed the trademarked “double orange threaded stitch design onto the back pocket” his jeans.1

  1. What bloomed in your work and is now threatened by boll weevils?
  2. What is still worthy of your effort, even if it’s not pretty (or easy)?
  3. What are you really measuring, and how is that encouraging the best activities?

Sources: Levi Strauss & Co.; Legends of America; Denim Hunters; PimaCott, Britannica.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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