The concept of kaizen teaches us that making small, tiny changes to our routine and lifestyle can add up to overwhelming differences in your overall productivity, happiness, and performance.
An example of this might be to write a page of a novel every day. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you consider that an average novel might have 300 pages… well then you could easily write the whole thing in a year as a result!
Or what if you were to save just $10 a day? Again, it seems perfectly doable. But by the end of the year you’ll have putt away $3,600! Enough for an impressive holiday.
But kaizen is also about the way in which a single small deviation can have huge repercussions when it is amplified by time. What do we mean by that?
Well, consider throwing a ball to a target. When we do this, our brains actually perform incredibly complex math first. When you throw that ball, you need to get the angle and the force precisely right. If your angle is 5 degrees off, then that might not seem like a lot, but as the ball travels it will deviate from the intended course more and more.
The further it goes, the bigger the gap becomes.
Life is like this. You might be do something only very slightly differently every day, but over time that will add up to a greater and greater effect. This is particularly true in scenarios where there is a cumulative effect.
But it gets even simpler than that. When we consider the “butterfly effect,” we realize that even the smallest thing can add up to having huge repercussions.
Take for example shaving in the morning. You might decide one morning not to shave – because you’re in a hurry – or you might decide that you are going to.
Small difference right? But what if on that day, you happen bump into someone in the street, an old colleague perhaps? You get to chatting and they think you look good – like you have your act together. They ask you some questions, and as a result, end up offering you to come and interview for a new job.
What if you hadn’t shaved? What if you were looking tired and unshaven? Might they not have given you that opportunity?
It’s very possible.
The same is true for teams and leadership. Take for example the British Cycling team of 2003 who were not exactly at their best. In 2003 things began to change though by just 1%. Yes, everything, even the smallest details were being improved by just 1%. It’s the perfect example of how small changes, consistently applied, can over time make a massive difference.
This is exactly what we mean by kaizen, it does highlight one very important truth: tiny differences add up to huge results. So, take a little time and focus on the minutiae!