Purpose Driven Kaizen?

There is an old Chinese proverb that says:

You can’t leap a chasm in 2 bounds.

Incremental improvement and breakthrough innovation have always been arch enemies. Yet without the mechanism for sustenance even the best ideas die premature deaths.

The solution isn’t as simple as something I could write in just a blog entry, but perhaps a productive way to think of it is from both points of view simultaneously. Whaaa? Huh? OK, ok, hear me out…

No one is going to innovate anything of significance by myopia on the process (continuous improvement or Kaizen). At the same time, having a brilliant solution is inconsequential and difficult to duplicate in the face of open competition. In fact, I remember a great saying that goes:

Those who are NOT great demand consistent greatness.
Those who ARE great know that it is impossible to deliver.

This duality is the tension that breeds change. The way to harness it is with focus. I propose that continuous and prosperous innovation is simply purpose driven. Meaning that, both kaizen and breakthroughs are focused on delivering an unattainable ideal.

Let’s take Apple as an example. They consistently come out with new "WOWs" because their core purpose is simply a refusal to be lame. That is an unattainable ideal. How do you measure "lame"? You can’t, it’s relative to time and circumstance. But because it is you can keep both the big ideas and the small improvements going at the same time.

So what’s your unattainable ideal? Find it and you will also find your purpose driven kaizen.

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