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.

Why Getting Better is the only way…

In the world that keeps moving faster and faster, everyone is challenged. The constant velocity of  change set pace to an even greater need to become better and better at a multiplied rate than before. Innovation has become a sacred word that even books on the topic become hunted by entrepreneur, managers, CEOs, even daily house mother that just try to run a business while baby sitting her children.

As country against country and organizations against each others to take the lead in the competition, it seems that the race to become better seems to take additional burden on personal level. It is because organization behaves as organism because indeed humans drives it and when organization would like to become better, humans inside it has to become better as well.

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“You learn something everyday if you pay attention” ~ Ray LeBlond

The pressure that will build into personal level is actually where the challenge is the biggest. In this micro level , with the already many life problems that faced by each ones of us, loads of responsibility to improve are put on our back by the necessity of organization to improve. Even it is understandable that if organization is not improving, at the end we will have the consequence by having much more problems (such as layoff, salary cut,etc.). Thus this becomes non-negotiable deal that led to rapid change in our lives. Those who can learn fast will adapt to the organization and those who do not improve will be left alone.

“Each day learn something new, and just as important, relearn something old.” ~ Robert Brault

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My remarks is that to keep pace not only we have to learn something to get better. Getting better means not only to learn something new, but also to never hesitate to re-learn and most importantly unlearn the things that is of no value for the future.

Education consist mainly of what we have unlearned.” ~ Mark Twain

What else increases productivity : Brain Tweaking!

I could  agree when the crowd mainstream shout for so long that psychology is a degree that apparently not so useful in the job market. Just take a look at yahoo answersocial anxiety forum, until student awards. Most of the graduates indeed found their job have a little or no relation at all to the degree they obtained. Psychology even included in 20 most useless degrees in a famous blog the Daily Beast.

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People who don’t intend on becoming Psychologists or working in the field as a mental health professional shouldn’t pursue degree’s in Psychology.

Somehow, I felt that the quote above is right to the point and contain a bitter pain fact that should be accepted by those who hold first degree in psychology. However, I always captivated to watch an expert in psychology shows their understanding and ability to understand human.

When psychology combined with TED Talks, it’s exactly my guilty pleasure. Who wouldn’t like to watch TED with all the inspiring persons talk about how we can actually improve our self, our community, and even not surprisingly our world. This week, I came across a video which lighten up my mind and open my view into another eye opening fact about increasing productivity through the use of Neuropsychology.

Improving your brain means everything in your life start from your body, to your money, your relationships, to the level of innovation.

Daniel Amen, a psychologist gave a TEDx Talk about what impact a healthy brain has on innovation that human produced. He revealed a study about brain using a sophisticated brain scan study that looks at brain blood flow and activity pattern to figure out at how brain is working and what it can bring to human productivity.

His thesis is simple that healthy brain makes us happier, wealthier, wiser, more creative, more innovative whereas unhealthy brain will bring sadder, sicker, poorer, not as smart, rigid and inflexibility to us.

We can accelerate the aging process with our behavior and you can decelerate it. It works the same with innovation. ~ Daniel Amen

What is interesting about his talk is that he presented about some activity that could lead to unproductivity. I was so amazed when I saw the video because not only he mentioned the kind of activities, but also the reason why. It turns out that obesity damage brain function in a way that as the weight goes up, the actual physical size and function of our brain goes down. Additionally, smoking and high blood pressure also very important to monitor. High pressure causing low flow blood to brain and smoking cause upnormal blood flow.

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Below, is the quick summary from Daniel Amen talks about what kind of activities we should have to enhance productivity by means of making our brain healthier.

WHAT ENHANCE YOUR BRAIN ?

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These powerful recipe will guide us to a more effective journey toward gaining more productivity. In fact, I started to apply some of the techniques given by his TEDx Talks and in the near future I will let all of you fellow travelers know about my journey on this one.

Invention, Innovation, and Kaizen

I recently read a really inspiring blog from gemba panta rei (http://www.gembapantarei.com/2012/08/innovation_is_nothing_but_ecrs.html). The post was basically a commentary from a TED video with the title Everything is a remix by Kirby Ferguson.

I know it’s a little odd to comment on a commentary blog post. But the topic is so stimulating for me to write a post on it. long story short is that I am absolutely agree with it.

The longer one is that when we considered the difference between invention, innovation and continuous improvement, we could really more see the beautiful of what Toyota has done until now.

Maasaki Imai has once stated that not only by continuous improvement we can make sure that our system is not deteriorate/maintained until the next innovation is come into being. The concept shown in the picture shows how Toyota make a difference between innovation, kaizen, and maintenance.

when we pointing to Oslo Manual that regulate innovation by European Commission. It is also said that of all innovation types of process, product, organizational, and marketing, innovation in all of them are significant changes. Thus, waiting for the innovation to appear, kaizen could really make an enormous difference to the system as depicted below.

the light blue line is innovation combined with kaizen and maintenance, whereas the blue line in the middle is innovation and maintenance, and the last pink line is when a company or a system only hold on to the concept of innovation.

What is lack from it is the part of Invention. Innovation can come from anyone in a company such as executives or engineers but Research and Development Department is formally responsible for it. Kaizen is also the responsibility of all people in the company but with the “Teachers” or  “Educators” being the Quality Department and Lean/Continuous Improvement Team. But we forget about Invention. I think in the future, it has to be someway to make invention finding as systematic as when we do both innovation and also kaizen.

Toyota has invented Prius with its sophisticated hybrid technology. But the question is can they also make invention systematic?