Kaizen

March 30th, 2010

Throughout my life, and increasingly since starting The Image Distillery in 2006, I’ve been intrigued with the concept of continuous incremental improvement.  It was only yesterday I learned that the Japanese have a word for this: “kaizen“.

Continuous improvement has two immediately-apparent side effects: 1) it frees us from the paralysis of having to achieve perfection all at once, and 2) it breaks the decisions we make into manageable chunks.

Kaizen is reflected in the web development maxim: “Release early and release often.” That is, don’t let fussing over details keep you from building and launching something.  As “living” (constantly evolving) documents, websites can be continuously refined and improved… all the while gaining traffic and spreading your message (instead of sitting on a development server for months awaiting tweaks that will unlock the mysteries of the universe).

This idea is also readily applied to anyone thinking about starting a new venture… instead of waiting for the timing to be perfect and your skills/product to be honed to perfection, start working toward that venture today.  Take a conscious step–any step–that gets you closer to your goal, and continue to improve yourself throughout the process by actively seeking experience, knowledge (read!) and mentorship.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from the owner of a commercial printing shop that I ran jobs through back when I was more involved with print.  He’d opened a small printing business right out of college, and he was now in his late 40′s with a much larger, more comprehensive operation with highly-capable machinery and the clientele to match.  He told me (I paraphrase):

“Do one thing every day that improves your business.  Maybe it’s getting a new client, maybe it’s investing in new machinery, maybe it’s having a conversation with someone you can learn something from… but always be conscious that you’re taking steps forward.”

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