Take the opportunity today to adopt the Kaizen approach.


The Japanese coined the term Kaizen, but the process started in the US when France fell to Germany during the second world war. America realized if it were to be more prepared for wars in the future it must make more equipment and more weapons when needed at a faster rate. Those supplies must be available faster when a part of the work force was called for duty on the front. The US government created a program called Training Within Industries. One course from this program became the basis for what would be called Kaizen after US instructors were asked to teach the program to a Japan that needed to improve its output quantity and quality post WWII. The Japanese adopted it rapidly therefore a lot of people mistakenly believe that it was originally created there.

Basically, Kaizen is a system of continual improvement using small incremental steps instead of radical innovation (which tends to fail 75% of the time). Kaizen works because it does not press our fear button and does not stimulate the “fight or flight” impulse in us – a response controlled by the amygdala, found in our mid-brain. The amygdala shuts down creative thinking that could interfere with our physical ability to fight or run, often stimulated by change. Although crucial for survival, when we use small steps towards change this part of the brain does not register any significant threat and is bypassed. However, when we feel fear, access to the cortex is restricted which almost always leads to panic, stress, indecision or even shut- down (unless you are able to turn fear into excitement). When we set small goals, there is no fear, the cortex becomes engaged (that part of the brain where logical and creative responses are created) and we follow each step successfully.

Kaizen is a mindset; a way of approaching any activity in such a way that daily progress is developed. Tiny adaptations of behaviour can eventually have massive implications. Tasks can be broken down into smaller and smaller steps until each seems to have little or no effect on their own. Change happens so slowly that there is almost no awareness of it happening. Of course, you can still choose to make sudden and huge changes, Kaizen need only apply when you feel fear stalling your progress. When you feel that certain changes threaten your security or you just feel they’re too far out of your comfort zone. Move towards them still – just in smaller steps. The key is to keep moving.




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Filed under Goals, Life changing, Relationships, Self help, Success

15 responses to “Take the opportunity today to adopt the Kaizen approach.

  1. Stu, I teach this all of the time, I just didn’t know there was a name for it besides my “taking baby steps” name. Thank you for sharing the history, I will pass it on the next time I lecture.
    Enjoy your Tuesday

  2. Fair enough Stu,
    be good top yourself

  3. love this phrase: “Kaizen need only apply when you feel fear stalling your progress.” so, first i must identify what is holding me back from achieving success or any goal, for that matter… thank you for this post…

    • Stu

      Thanks and yes – first you must figure out what your barriers are. Once you identify the fear you choose to bust it wide open, or tip toe right through it. In dog training there’s two similar approaches to dealing with a dog’s fear – 1. Flooding, where you immerse the dog in its fear, ie: if it’s afraid of other dogs you put it in a pen with a lot of other dogs and leave it there until it’s accustomed, (seems cruel), or 2. Gradual proximity – where you might go on walks with one other dog, then two another time and so on until the dog is comfortable in the company of other dogs. Kaizen reflects the second approach. πŸ™‚

      • whew! I’m glad it’s the second one, because for me TOTAL IMMERSION would only work in trying to learn another language…everything else: tippy-toe, tippy-toe…fabulous post, concept, explanation…looking forward to your next topic…thankyou Stu

  4. Bless you for deciding to follow my blog! Such an honor for me and my “writings” as my friend Art at zendictive blog call my posts! I really enjoyed this most recent post of yours, particularly valuing the following:
    “Tiny adaptations of behaviour can eventually have massive implications.” Yes, they can! Remember Rosa Parks being too tired to change her seat on that bus? A tiny adaptation that continues to rock our world, especially now in light of the murder of Trayvon down in Florida!

    • Exactly right – who would have known (certainly not Rosa) that her small action that day would lead to the huge changes that have happened since. Because of her tiny decision that day she changed the course of the most powerful country in the world. Wow! And people still say: I’m just one person, what can I do? Thank you for reminding me of Rosa Parks – I’ll recount that very story the next time someone feels helpless. Thanks Granbee. πŸ™‚

  5. Small incremental steps make perfect sense. πŸ˜‰

  6. Miss Emm

    You know the amygdala is also know to be linked in few mental disorders and it happens to be one of the trigger points in human personality. Great post!

    • Stu

      Yes, and otherwise known as the Lizard Brain. It’s a very primitive part of the brain and responsible for many if not all of our instinctive responses. Blink before you’ve seen something coming and that’s the amygdala working. πŸ™‚

  7. jakesprinter

    Nice page my friend πŸ™‚

  8. Stuart, This is so true! I often guide my clients through a series of baby steps because the whole picture tends to be overwhelming, causing them to shut down and do nothing. You articulated what I have been trying to get across so well. Thank you.

    • Thanks Kristin, I use this approach as part of my 90 Day ‘Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life’ Program – which is going to be offered for Free with every book purchase during the launch window. More details on that coming soon. πŸ™‚

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