‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’ — Really?

Kaizen isn’t the only thing different about Japan. Its literacy rate is almost 100%. Geisha translates as ‘person of the arts’; the first geisha were men. Many companies hire people to hand out free packages of tissues that include an advertisement. The term karaoke means ‘empty orchestra’ in Japanese.
Kaizen isn’t the only thing different about Japan. Its literacy rate is almost 100%. Geisha translates as ‘person of the arts’; the first geishas were men. Many companies hire people to hand out free packages of tissues that include an advertisement. The term karaoke means ‘empty orchestra’ in Japanese.

Lego is appealing because it doesn’t insist you stick to the directions.

It’s not bossy that  way. So kids and adults let their imaginations go.

As a result you get a Lego model of the Kennedy Space Center, complete with 6-foot high rockets on launch gantries.

There’s also a 9-1/2 foot long Lego Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 with a wingspan of 10-1/2 feet.

Add to all that a 6 foot by 8 foot Lego Mona Lisa reproduction made from 30,000 bricks.

Leonardo da Vinci would have approved of the plastic Mona Lisa as it has the enigmatic smile down perfectly.

Building things and improving on your creations must be in our DNA. Lego gives you more than a hint we’re wired for it.

Which is why some directions for management success should be questioned.

Like the old familiar, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Why is that line so often parroted by those who don’t how to think further?

Counter to the  ‘don’t fix it’ directive, you have the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement.

No doubt you’ve heard of Kaizen.

It focuses on continual quality improvements; advances in processes, technology, productivity, safety, leadership and the culture of a company. Or an individual.

Kaizen is a building block for lean manufacturing. Companies like Sony, Toyota and more use it.

It’s about making continual incremental improvements.

Those increments add up to big differences when it comes to business, personal life and even sport.

If you don’t create these small differences how will you compete with those who do?

Kaizen involves every employee in thinking about change – it asks for suggestions across the board.

Years ago  workers in an Australian aluminum plant suggested a small change in the metal-making process.

It benefitted Alcoa by millions in savings a year and boosted quality. As a reward the workers split a million dollars.

Another example is probably the greatest company you’ve never heard of.

Kosaka Smelting and Refining. In 2011 Fast Company rated them No. 14 in a list of the world’s most innovative companies.

They developed mining processes to extract undiscovered ore from exhausted gold mines.

When that came to an end, they made the jump to industrial mining.

Their business today is harvesting valuable metals from old computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. Given the monetary value of their recoveries you could call it recycling on steroids.

When it comes to brand ideas use Kosaka’s initiative as a model for improvement.

To get to concepts like ‘Just Do It’, ‘The Crazy Ones’, and ‘Lemon’ for Volkswagen, it would be rare to go with the first thing pops into your mind.

It often takes exhaustive work and coping with dead ends to come up with communications that push the boundaries of originality and appeal.

As the Australians say, it could keep you as busy as a one-armed taxi driver with crabs.

But even  if you have work as strong as the current Snickers ‘You’re Not You’ campaign, continue to look further.

Because one day the agency for Snickers will top that idea. You have to believe that If you’re a marketer in an environment where we’re ruled by a need for novelty.

Kaizen can help you with that as you cultivate fresh thinking. There’s a process to begin on a personal level.

Start by imagining that everything you do, while awake and while sleeping – is being recorded on video.

Admittedly that sounds a bit like self-consciousness in the extreme, but it’s known to work. It’s like visualizing yourself crossing the finish line first in sport.

With your on-screen persona you become more aware of your direction, actions and decisions.

It can make you more critical and effective as you begin to see problems as an opportunity rather than an impediment.

It prompts solutions to help you become something greater than you might have expected.

We all know that out-of-the-box thinking can result in innovative strategies and content. But why not go a step further.

Take your out-of-the-box stuff and then add Kaizen.

That way you could go from something that ‘ain’t broke’ to something that’s a breakthrough.

Share your stories with us. How do you shape your future? How do you go beyond the limits of ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’?  Thanks, Steve Ulin

 

 

 

 

 

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