Google turns up 20.7 million results for Kaizen. Depending on where you’re located, a few of these are likely to be for local strategy consultants and investment firms.
Wait. You haven’t heard of Kaizen? Are you asking what Kaizen is exactly?
It’s Japanese for “change for the better.” Seems simple, but it’s not quite. Revolving around the word is a world of interpretations, historical significance, and use in modern management discussions. I’m not going to paraphrase or explore the full meaning here – the Kaizen Institute’s explanations is a good start if you are looking for one.
Kaizen and me
Kaizen though isn’t only about management or production practices. Here is what it means to me as a practitioner –
Basic principles have taken me a long way. Lifting everyone’s energy and working to add order to environments is now second nature. A big misnomer that I encounter is about how entrepreneurs thrive in chaos – or a variation, entrepreneurs know how to build great things amidst constant chaos. (More on misnomers and entrepreneurs in another article.)
In a world that overwhelms, I learned where to focus my Kaizen efforts since many topics and people don’t warrant that kind of attention right now. I learned to differentiate between important and urgent. Let’s help folks who help themselves. “You can’t wake up someone who pretends to sleep” carries a lot of meaning, and unsurprisingly, exists in many languages.
I work to leave every room better than when I entered it. And that starts with making my bed first thing in the morning. Even Admiral McRaven talked of changing the world by making our beds in his address at the University of Texas.
I read a paper book before bed. It’s my signal to my body to wind down while learning every day. From another perspective, I want to wake up 1% wiser than I slept – an idea that is best explained in James Clear’s Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Shane Parrish has a condensed 3 minute explanation in his blog post, Why Small Habits Make a Big Difference.
I leverage my time by doing things that drive multiple benefits. Reading before bed leverages the brain’s continuous data transfer and deep learning process during sleep, as outlined in the book Why We Sleep. Mentoring is another area of leverage. Even as I share ideas/experiences/knowledge to improve others’ lives, I learn new points of view that invariably provide me more information and fuel for self improvement.
That’s Kaizen for me: continuous improvement. Sometimes, it really is that simple.
Any of that resonate with you?