Kaizen (改善)

Did you make a small improvement in some area of your apps today? Your design? Your business? Practice Kaizen and you would have. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy for continuous improvement which has been applied to fields as varied as manufacturing and game development. While the philosophy includes making changes and adjusting based on their outcome one of the more useful aspects is improvement by continually making small changes.

Toyota famously uses this technique to increase manufacturing efficiency and productivity. Every worker is empowered to stop their production line suggest an improvement and work it into their larger process. They have formalized the process and made it a part of their corporate culture. Small changes made continually have led to a power house of manufacturing.

I think that Apple also uses a form of Kaizen. We all know that Apple makes incredible products and is known for innovation. But, they are not always first to market. Nor are many of their products initially released with the ultimate feature set. They have an innate knack for launching a product with the right feature set and then rapidly and continually improving it over time. All informed by a philosophy of simplicity and elegance. In fact, they are relentless about improvement even to the point of radically changing established and accepted products. Remember the very first iPod? It was a clunky device by todays standards. It also wasn’t the first nor the best digital music player of its day. But, it soon became the dominating music player as a result of relentlessly improving the device.

It’s amazing how quickly a group of small changes can result in a large one. By continually making small improvements you can quickly outpace competitors, increase end user satisfaction and create a product that is established in its niche. This technique is especially powerful when used by small teams or solo developers who can move nimbly but lack the resources of a larger outfit. Be relentless in your small but continual improvements and others will wonder how you get so much done. One brick at a time, that’s how. Add the philosophy of Kaizen to your mindset and make at least a small improvement in your app or business each and every day. Down the road you’ll be glad you did.