Kaizen, or “good change” in Japanese, is a simple term that is incredibly pivotal and revolutionary mindset that can redefine our ideas about business and how it works. In the western world, most of us have been taught to seek results and our thinking is almost always results based, this can lead us to determining things as either good or bad or as a success or failure, but the Kaizen mindset- calling for “continuous improvement”- can set us free from the anxiety of results based thinking and make us much better over time.
Kaizen in business: some of the benefits to Kaizen companies
A core benefit of the kaizen philosophy is the ability to embrace growth and change rapidly. Most forms of organization and planning are highly controlling and place a high burden on people to keep things consistent.
Take for example a business operating on a typical loss and profit model: if profit rises, business resumes as usual, and only if profit falls does management attempt to intervene, but in this western model, businesses focus mainly on profit (results), often leaving the company focusing on ways to increase profit, rather than focusing upon ways to become better.
When the kaizen mindset is encouraged and developed in life it is transformative; failures, setbacks, and challenges disappear, and all that remains is the strong focus to improve and become better. With a kaizen mindset your actions are constantly changing and improving, making you better able to adapt to difficulty.
With a traditional management system, people spend their time trying to find the best way to manage things, and then once they find it, they set rigid structure and rules to keep it in place. This will lead to growth that occurs in steps, progress, then plateau, followed by an eventual reexamination and more growth.
In a kaizen model people will constantly seek small improvements, so growth will stay on a more consistent path over time.
More efficiency and imagination.
If the Kaizen mindset is truly able to take hold, then you will constantly be on the look out for new opportunities for growth; this will increase imagination and the ability to find new creative ways to deal with problems and improve. Since you are used to always seeking improvement in a kaizen mindset, it is easy to find ways to improve.
Compare this kaizen way of thinking to a traditional management model where things are usually only addressed when they become a major problem; rather than proactively continuing to improve, improvement is only sought after in times of decline in the western model.
So how can a 1980’s Japanese business philosophy impact your everyday life?
- Create HUGE personal growth over time– if you seek to find daily improvement in some way each day, you will eventually be VERY good at many things.
- Invest in your future each day- each day driven by the Kaizen mentality makes you smarter, more experienced, more effective, more organized, and more powerful. If you adopt Kaizen today, there is no telling what you will be capable of in 10, 20, or 30 years.
- Freedom from stress- stress often comes from trying to anticipate or control how things work out. By focusing on results, or by trying to always control the outcome of things, we increase stress levels dramatically. Kaizen frees us from all expectations except for one, and that is the expectation that we do better consistently over time.
Long before I ever heard of the term Kaizen, I committed my life to becoming better each and every day, and within just a year I have already grown far more than I ever could have expected.
I started a website, I made my writing better, I started learning film and editing, I wrote a book, I developed more confidence, I learned how to create better relationships, I learned about sales, business, history, goal setting, and organization. The personal growth I have experienced in 1.5 years is truly incredible, and the same growth I have had, can be had by anyone with a commitment to the Kaizen way of life.
Kaizen frees you from feelings of fear and sadness, because each problem and setback is an opportunity to grow. When you realize that the very worst thing that can possibly happen will still allow you to grow and improve, you can experience a strong feeling of freedom and empowerment.
How to apply the Kaizen mindset to your own life.
- Constantly look for problems to fix or weaknesses to improve- make it a habit to examine yourself for mistakes, problems, or weaknesses that you can improve on. For example: let us imagine you are bummed that you never have the courage to ask your boss for a raise, you might realize that the real issue is that you have problems with confrontation, so you can read some books, take a workshop, or just force yourself to do things that create awkwardness.
- Do more of what makes you uncomfortable- if something makes you uncomfortable, it is likely due to the fact that you aren’t good at it, or you don’t know anything about it, and the best way to get more comfortable is to get better at it, and the best way to get better at it is to practice.
- Create daily plans and schedule that include time for improvement- Kaizen calls for more than just busy work and continuing on through the same process you have done a million times before, it calls for regularly scheduled time to examine what you are doing, how to do it better, and you must also spend time learning how to do things better.
- Read every day- by reading at least a little bit each day, you will constantly expose yourself to new ideas that will expand your imagination and potential for personal growth; reading will also teach you new ways to find growth and develop yourself into a better person each day.
- Ask more questions- whether asking yourself why you do things the way you do, or asking a friend or co-worker why they do things the way they do, you can learn a lot and become more effective in the process just by asking more questions.
Every single day is an opportunity for growth and improvement, embrace kaizen: the way of continuous improvement and the future is limitless.