Innovation is a vital business tool, helping organisations take a big leap forward and beyond their competitors rather than just keeping up. But genuine innovation is rarer than many people think.
“Today almost any improvement could be claimed as an ‘innovation’,” says Paul Stringleman, Senior Intralogistics Automation Consultant at automation solutions specialist Swisslog Australia. “However, this tendency to describe incremental improvements in such lofty terms is clearly more hype than reality. Applying technology that is far from state-of-the-art may be better than what was done before, but that does not necessarily earn the label of innovation.”
The ‘three Ks’ from the world famous Toyota Production System illustrate this point. Kaizen (change + good) is evolutionary, while kaikaku (change + transform) is revolutionary. The third K is kakushin (transform + new). “It is the Japanese word for innovation,” Stringleman says.
“In Japanese business theory, kakushin is not just taking something, polishing it up and making it slightly better. Nor is it taking an existing solution and applying it to your own business. Every now and then an opportunity occurs to take the kakushin step, a genuinely innovative approach that solves a problem in an entirely new way.
“The simple way of thinking about the distinction is that kaikaku is something new to you. Kakushin is new to everyone.”
Swisslog has released a detailed white paper Kaizen Paradox II – How The Application Of Kaizen Principles To Transformative Technology Delivers Real Innovation.
It provides a new understanding of what innovation actually is, with examples from history and the modern day. It provides guidance on how genuine innovation can be achieved, including how organisations can approach business transformation and investments that can deliver genuine innovation.
It follows on from the first white paper The Kaizen Paradox: How Incremental Improvements Can Impede Innovation, which explored issues where small changes can delay or even block transformative investment.
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