When you break down the entomology of the word you can see that it is made up of two different words.
𝗞𝗮𝗶 – which means “change” and 𝗭𝗲𝗻 – which means “good” or “better”. When you put them together you get something to the effect of “change for the better”.
So not necessarily continuous improvement, but it does speak to the need for change in order for things to have a better outcome than what you currently have.
You could think about it in this context as well:
𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚 𝙞𝙨𝙣’𝙩 𝙖𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙗𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙧, 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙨 𝙞𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙣𝙚𝙘𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙖𝙧𝙮 𝙩𝙤 𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙩𝙚𝙖𝙧 𝙙𝙤𝙬𝙣 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙧𝙚𝙗𝙪𝙞𝙡𝙙 𝙞𝙩 𝙙𝙞𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙡𝙮.
To me this is what kaizen is about ➡️ It is about changing our processes, our businesses or ourselves for the purpose of getting better. And more often then naught this can be a painful process and we have a tendency to back away from it.
When we use the term “continuous improvement” I think we glaze over how hard the change can really be. But it can be the best thing you ever do for yourself or your business.
Change is often messy and can feel like a tearing apart in the process of rebuilding something. The picture that comes to mind for me is that of a Phoenix.
The bird must literally die and turn to ash in order to be reborn into a brand new beautiful creature. This is what I think of when I think of kaizen and what I have seen happen with people and processes.
This is why I have a tattoo of a Phoenix on my back, to remind me where I’ve been, of my past and that I am not that person anymore.
What picture comes to mind for you when you think about kaizen?