Kaizen For Self Improvement

December 31, 2023

By Steve Gillman

What does Kaizen, a Japanese method of production excellence and industrial efficiency have to do with self improvement? Can it be adapted to self-work? What is it, anyhow?

It began with the “continuous improvement” theories of efficiency expert W. Edwards Deming in the 30s and 40s. After the war the ideas were picked up by the Japanese and developed into “Kaizen,” a method for creating quality products efficiently through many small and continuous changes. This is perfect for self-improvement, as Robert Maurer explains in his book “One Small Step Change Your Life:”

“Your brain is programmed to resist change, but by taking small steps, you effectively rewire your nervous system so that is does the following:

* Unsticks you from a creative block.

* Bypasses the fight or flight response.

* Creates new connections between neurons so thet the brain entusiastically takes over the process of change and you progress rapidly towards your goal.”

Kaizen is an alternative for those who have a hard time facing major changes, like quitting smoking all at once. For something like that, the kaizen way might be to stop smoking in your car, as the first small step. Then you could switch to a brand with less nicotine, stop smoking in the house, and so on.

An important technique used in kaizen is asking “small questions.” In factories this meant no more questions like “What are you going to do to improve the company profits this year?” That just elicits more fear than creative ideas. A better question might be, “What small change could we make in your department to reduce expenses (or improve quality)?” This approach was found to be far more productive.

For purposes of self improvement, this means asking small suggestive questions of yourself, like, “What could I do to free up five minutes for my meditation practice?” or “What small change could I make if I wanted to improve my relationships today?” Small questions tend to dispell the fear and intimidation that come with frontally facing the whole issue.

Small questions, along with small, comfortable changes is the first important principle of kaizen. The second is to make the process a continual one. Just imagine where you’d be if you had consciously made one small change in your life each week for the last few years. Even better, imagine where you’ll be a few years from now, if you start the process today.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” - Lao Tzu

Steve Gillman writes on many topics including brainpower, weight loss, meditation, habits of mind, creative problem solving, generating luck and anything related to self improvement. Learn more and get FREE e-courses at http://www.SelfImprovementNow.com

Copyright Steve Gillman - http://www.selfimprovementnow.com

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2 Responses to “Kaizen For Self Improvement”

  1. Self Improvement eBooks on January 25th, 2008 4:53 pm

    I’ve never heard of Kaizen until now, it makes sense and seems to be applicable ot only aspects of life. Thanks for posting about it.

  2. John Hunter on April 27th, 2008 2:33 pm

    Those interested in learning more about might be interested in: Deming on Management and Deming related posts on the Curious Cat Management Improvement blog.

    John Hunter’s last blog post..Toyota Canada CIO on Genchi Genbutsu and Kaizen

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