Kaizen critics on Innovation: Sustaining Innovation is not Kaizen!

The rapid change of the world makes innovation a lethal weapon to become a big part of solution to bring about countries, companies, or communities to a useful change that hopefully take them to the top the leading pack in the world. Little research on the topic could give many hints that innovation is the key. There are now disruptive innovation, cultural innovation, reverse innovation and other terms that use innovations as the key.

However, the overwhelming topic of innovation that filled the market has overshadowed some important not so radical, slow and not extreme change that comes from continuous improvement that actually be the backbone of many leading companies in the world. The power of kaizen culture which embedded in top leader of the pack has been uncover in the book The high-velocity edge by Steven Spear seems to be undermined by the amount of innovation books and its varieties on the market.

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I am not against innovation because I understand that without innovation no companies could ever bare their existence let alone leading. innovation is the key. I really enjoy reading books on innovation especially books by Clayton M. Christensen which really is the result of his in-depth research and reflection about the world of innovation.

My argument about innovation is that most of the books on innovations discussed about big changes that will lead to strategic/big step. My take on current innovation paradigm is that innovation is not enough because we still need kaizen. Some people say that kaizen is innovation also, but it really is not. The rule of thumbs is what your mind perceived what innovation is, reduce it by factor of at least 100.

When for example Clayton M. Christensen tried to detail innovation into a more elaborate by dividing it further into Disruptive and Sustaining Innovation. People get confuse because first, where is then Kaizen? Second,  a strange combination of words is used (Sustaining Innovation!).

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The Innovator’s Dilemma (Christensen 1997) identified two distinct categories—sustaining and disruptive—based on the circumstances of innovation.

  1. Sustaining Innovation : when the race entails making better products that can be sold for more money to attractive customers—we found that incumbents almost always prevail.
  2. Disruptive Innovation :when the challenge is to commercialize a simpler, more convenient product that sells for less money and appeals to a new or unattractive customer set—the entrants are likely to beat the incumbents. This is the phenomenon that so frequently defeats successful companies. It implies, of course, that the best way for upstarts to attack established competitors is to disrupt them. (Low end disruption and New market disruption)

Confusion happen among the practitioner of whether Sustaining Innovation is Kaizen because it is also about making better products to attractive customers. Additionally, two words of sustaining and innovation are both contradictory in nature in a way that when innovation happen, change happen and it moves the object of innovation to some future state.Thus actually it is inappropriate to give the name “sustain”. Sustain means almost equally to maintain. Hence it means the innovation going nowhere but only maintain and hence going nowhere.

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History wise, the Kaizen term exist already since 1986 which is kaizen/continuous improvement which small incremental improvement. However, it seems that the founder of kaizen concept had predicted that confusion between Innovation and Kaizen will likely to happen.

This big misconception has been cleared before by Masaaki Imai in 1986, a notable quality philosopher and practitioner and the founder of Japanese consulting company namely Kaizen Institute or best known by the west as the father of Continuous Improvement. Misconception of innovation happen when people associate immediately innovation with improvement. The truth is that innovation indeed is improvement but improvement is not just innovation. Improvement consist of Kaizen and Innovation in which until the next innovation, kaizen will improve the system little by little.

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From the graph it is clear that Kaizen perfected Innovation. It means that any types of Innovation whether it is disruptive innovation, cultural innovation, reverse innovation will be make perfect by following through with Kaizen afterwards. Kaizen will target improvement until next innovation.

Hence it is very clear that innovation itself is insufficient to create a winning edge and that innovation coupled with relentless kaizen become the ultimate answer. This is why in my opinion, despite of the effort to rally with other companies toward Innovation from generating, managing, until applying innovation many firms still happen to be in the lower league. Because Innovation without Kaizen is just like “Pound Saving, Penny Foolish”. It seems good that you get to save many Pounds, but other companies take care also every Pennies possible with Kaizen and overtime they who cares for both thrives.

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Understand Others through Understanding Ourselves: The Power of Personality Psychology

Human is not without conflict. It is because human is a social creatures and the need for communication is enormous. I am not someone who actually have an expertise in psychology. But to know that understanding of this unique field that explore human behavior could immensely contribute subconsciously to the way we are living our lives, the way we deal with problem, the way we solve conflict, the way we perceive others and finally the way we see ourselves.

Let alone the seemingly never ending conflict of two world of introvert and extrovert. One could get fired just because extrovert boss do not understand their subordinate introvert by thinking that he do not like to work with him because he seems not friendly and outgoing. The impact of realizing the existence of different personality could better clear the unspoken expression of human nature.

A person next to me do not think like I do, but it doesn’t mean that he is wrong.

As a regular person who is not an expert in psychology, I find out learning about some of personal psychology model substantially changed the way I see the surrounding in a good manner. There are a vast array of personality models, but here, I would like to share only some personal psychology models that I use and which I found practically useful.

4 –Quadrant Personality Models

A practical use is 4 quadrant model which comprises several models. The famous among 4 quadrant model that is for me really helpful are Human Nature Model, DISC, Merrill Reid Model.

The function of this model as I benefit from it is that we can look at how we or other persons around us base on their driven nature.

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This model is undeniably famous in business, whether to screen potential employee, in education, or for development of current employee. It really is useful in many circumstances to better understand us and our team partners in terms of their behavior.

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Another complementary of DISC model is Merrill Reid model which focus more toward social styles or how people actually behave or act. Unlike the previous one which concentrate somehow more inner being of a person, this is really concentrate on the act the a person does. It is helpful to know this model to be able to read your team partners and their favorite acts as to use them fully in the fields that they most enjoyable in doing it.

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Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a more complex model but also useful in addition to the previous model. It is about how people perceive the world and make decisions. The MBTI focuses on normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. However, I really find that the 4 quadrant concepts are all rather simple to be applied as it is not too complex and really focus on being use more toward working with others.

Without the existence of these models to help us understand others and to learn to see the other person’s behavior from a different set of eyes, there will be many misunderstanding among people. Too often we view other people from our own eyes and our own frame of reference. The key to success is to understand there are many ways to approach work and they are all effective. Each of us has a preference for an approach that works best for us individually without regard for what will work best for another person. But actually in believing that our way is the best without understanding other persons perspective will only destroy team performance.

Transformation to Sustainability : “Green” tagline is only for the Customers.

Several years ago, human was so interested in the extraction of nature to support the life of people in the earth. It was before the decreasing supply of nature due to over-extraction that the necessity to find alternative of sources to make the earth more sustainable take place. Today, we see in many places taglines of green living, sustainable earth or care nature that urge people to preserve and even cultivate again our nature that has been destructed by extraction without control.

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This week, I went shopping as part of my regular “ weekly things to do” except, this time I got in into a very long queue line in the supermarket’s cashier. Then I realized that it is 5p.m. and as usual in this time many people going back from work and stop in supermarket for quick shopping for dinner or just grab some foods for their stock. In this long queue, I saw a plastic bag that I took the picture of it. During the queue, I reflected in my mind about how this plastic bag could be there in the supermarket, when people outside have put a large banners and costly commercials of how people should live by “going green”.

What caught me right away first of all is how the plastic bag could be there, but then having take a look into the detail, I could also see a text that stated Reduce Use of Plastic Bag..Refuse, Reuse, Recycle”. Those two reasons are quite provoking to start a post in this blog for it is an example of going to the wrong way from kaizen or continuous improvement. An example of a good and right  intention that wrongly planned as well as executed.

So, why not begin from looking at the supply chain. All products will have the same flow which basically begin from Supplier to Manufacturer to Logistics and at the end to Retailer that directly has contact with Customers that is us. Then, we have an issue that plastic bag is bad for the nature as we have seen before in the text located in the plastic bag ( “Reduce Use of Plastic Bag..Refuse, Reuse, Recycle”). From this, it is clear that the plastic bag is bad for nature, and that people should refuse it.

Then the question came up of why they place the decision on customers? Does customers do have bigger impacts to preserving nature by making choice of use or not use plastic bags?

I would say that if plastic bag is bad and customers should refuse it, then it should not be produced in the first place.

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By not producing plastic bag at all, customers will not be blamed for choosing plastic bag. Today, it seems like buying a plastic bag  is taboo for customers and plastic bag is the temptation that will always exist. It should not be like that, eliminating plastic bag from the early in supply chain could substantially decrease the problem since at the end of the day there is no plastic bag that could be bought by a customer.

Frankly, the current situation that happen is that customers go on shopping to a certain shop, they buy their product that they wish to buy, and then at the end either the cashier will ask “do you want a plastic bag ?” or in the cashier you can pick one. Either one you will have temptation to use plastic bag and most probably some people will somehow choose to use it.

Go Green. Hand with words cloud about environmental conservation

This is a system that has a flaw, if “green” means not using plastic bag, why you have plastic bag offered to you that tempted a customer to use it. Can you imagine one time, a customer that life 2 km from the shopping area and buy 3 kg of whatever it is and he/she has to carry all of his/her stuffs from the shopping area to his/her home by walking? it is certain for this type of person that if the plastic bag is offered to them, they will definitely use it.Additionally, it is not rare that some companies even put a blame on this poor guy by saying that if he knew already he has a pretty far distance to travel with huge amount of weight he should by himself be prepared by bringing a backpack or trolley.

But it seems still this solution has its flaw because since when the customer become a servant? customer is a king while the best is a partner. but it is not rational for the one who will sell product to customers to blame customers for their living condition.

It is true that apparently the existence of plastic bag is for helping this kind of person that really need to carry their stuffs. But, going green means not only customer being pushed by all the supply chain to act in terms of taking step in making a choice, but all of them that is inside the supply chain has to commit together in the green movement. Just imagine, if Supermarkets determined that they will not buy plastic bag from Logistics that is not green or not recyclable or biodegradable or even they will not use plastic at all and  buy other alternative bag, then there will be no customers that will be blame. Imagine that Logistics will also commit of not delivering these plastics and later the manufacturer will not produce it and at the end the suppliers will not supply it. Then there will be no finger pointing about who is wrong because the plastic bag simply do not exist anymore.

In plastic bag industry that relate closely with supermarkets, taglines of green line actually still aim solely toward customers. But we can take a very very nice and successful act from several other industry that prove to be work.

A company or industry that decide to support the conversion to green and sustainable living has two options:

  • Increasing the awareness of customers then produce product
  • Produce a product and then offer to customers

In the first approach, it bases on presumption that customers’ awareness of green living could influence what product that they will buy and this is one of the many ultimate reason of not beginning the transformation to green product early in the supply chain but instead delaying it by forcing customers to suffer by giving them a right and wrong choice.

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The second one, is to invent a product and offer it to customers. Basically, when we think about a product, there are two kind of how manufacturers could make a product. First type is making a product by looking at the market needs, getting the voice of customers, trying to figure out what they need and improve the product based on it. This is the first approach based on. Then, there is a second one which the customer has no idea about the product that they need at all.It is totally unimaginable for customers that before this product being produced and sold, customers have no idea that they will actually will need this and use it. (like computers, ipad, hand phone, and other product)

Many companies have gone into trap in this first approach which will bring a suffering to customers for a very long terms by trying to make them realize that green is the way of living.

Some companies is already following the second approach to transformation to a green living. There is some good examples, but let me just take two of the most important one. The first one is in the field of energy that basically try to invent green power that will later replace fossil power in the future and also in the field of transportation that replace oil power with electro or hybrid power. Both of this has taken the second approach of offering to customers a fundamentally new product that customers have not yet even imagined before.

Green power will make customers not feeling guilty anymore of using fossil power without clear alternative in front of them that they can have a much better and greener alternative. It is also the same for hybrid power. Customer will have the options to contribute to the sustainability buy buying it instead of gasoline power. For both cases, it is not easy for both industry to innovate into green power and also hybrid power since it has very big risk of replacing gasoline supply chain with hybrid supply chain and fossil with green power.

One example is Toyota hybrid car. the company has philosophy of making customers their first priority and not letting the customers to suffer between choices that they should make. The company realize that it is not right that the customers should resist themself in buying a particular cars, but it is the manufacturers that should come with alternative that still serve the same purpose but will be more incline toward caring of environment. In the first place, Toyota didn’t know that Hybrid will ever become alternative that will works, even the company didn’t know at the time of first launched. But the brave initiative for the purpose of serving both customers and the sustainability of the world leads to a solution that works for both releasing the suffering of choice that customers’ have and also contributing to sustainability of the world and society.

This way of thinking and brave decision toward green and sustainability should also emerge in other industry because to begin with the green transformation, it takes big courage from manufacturers and enormous believe that the company themselves has a will and able to contribute to bring society to green and sustainable living by starting by themselves with their own innovative product or solution. Once a manufacturer has a strong believe on this, they are most unlikely to claim to the world that they are a green and sustainable companies but what they are actually doing is putting the customers as a verdict to put a blame on.