Kaizen Book Summary - Kaizen Book explained in key points
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Kaizen summary

Sarah Harvey

The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits, One Small Step at a Time

4.6 (718 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

Kaizen by Sarah Harvey explores the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. The book presents actionable steps to increase efficiency and productivity in personal and professional life. It's a great resource for those seeking to improve their routines and daily operations.

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    Summary of 6 key ideas

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    Kaizen values incremental growth.

    Let’s say you want to beat your sugar addiction. So you sign up with a hypnotherapist who promises to make your sweet cravings vanish in five sessions. It may be an expensive solution, but you feel like you’ve tried everything else.

    After the last hypnotherapy session, you walk out feeling empowered. In fact, you manage to go the entire following week without any sugar cravings. But fast-forward to a bad morning the week after that and you find yourself at a vending machine, begrudgingly pressing for a candy bar. As you toss the cold coins in the slot, you regret the money spent on the hypnotist.

    The key message here is: Kaizen values incremental growth.

    We live in a culture that expects instant results, so it’s no surprise that many health and self-help trends promise overnight success. But a much more effective way to transform habits is to take one small action at a time, repeating it until you get results. This underpins the Japanese philosophy of kaizen.

    While kaizen is a Japanese word for change, the kaizen method originated as a business theory, created by the US government to help Japan reboot its economy after World War II. Kaizen is credited as influencing the ensuing success of many Japanese companies, most notably Toyota. Labeled “the Toyota Way” by the company, kaizen has been used as a strategy to enhance product lines, by incrementally reducing production waste while improving quality.

    Ironically, by the 1980s, Japanese companies were doing so well that it gave American businesses reason to fret. So kaizen returned to the US, as an organizational theory, in a book titled Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success by Masaaki Imai.

    In his book, Imai encourages managers to set short-, medium-, and long-term goals around four criteria: business growth, product quality, customer service, and staff motivation. Additionally, every employee – from the receptionist to the CEO – is invited to contribute suggestions for ways to improve. The emphasis is always on long-term goals and continuous improvement through small changes.

    As Imai acknowledges, kaizen has wider applications far beyond the business world. Whether you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle, get better at saving money, or rethink your career, kaizen can set you on the path to success. But first, you have to know where you stand.

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    What is Kaizen about?

    Kaizen (2019) is a guide to the improvement philosophy known as kaizen, which encourages taking small steps to complete ambitious goals. Already well established in the world of business and sports, this method can also be applied to personal development. Using practical examples, this guide explains how to take a kaizen approach to setting goals that’ll improve health, relationships, money, and work.

    Kaizen Review

    Kaizen (2019) by Sarah Harvey presents a powerful concept for continuous improvement that can be applied to all aspects of life. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers practical techniques to create lasting change by making small, incremental improvements that accumulate over time.
    • Provides real-world examples of individuals and organizations that have achieved significant results through the practice of kaizen.
    • Emphasizes the importance of mindset and self-reflection in the journey of personal growth and improvement.

    Best quote from Kaizen

    The Kaizen philosophy assumes that our way of life – be it our working life, our social life, or our home life – deserves to be constantly improved. – Masaaki Imai

    —Sarah Harvey
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    Who should read Kaizen?

    • Anyone trying to overcome a habit or take up a new challenge
    • Anybody wishing to improve an aspect of their life
    • Anyone interested in Japanese culture and philosophies

    About the Author

    Sarah Harvey was a publishing consultant in Tokyo when she was introduced to kaizen. She now lives in London, where she works for a literary agency. Kaizen is her first book.

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    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

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    Kaizen FAQs 

    What is the main message of Kaizen?

    The main message of Kaizen is continuous improvement through small, incremental changes.

    How long does it take to read Kaizen?

    The reading time for Kaizen varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Kaizen a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Kaizen is worth reading because it offers practical strategies for personal and professional growth.

    Who is the author of Kaizen?

    The author of Kaizen is Sarah Harvey.

    What to read after Kaizen?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Kaizen, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton
    • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    • One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer
    • Ikigai by Hector Garcia Puigcerver and Francesc Miralles
    • The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi
    • Awakening Your Ikigai by Ken Mogi
    • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell
    • Strategic Kaizen™ by Masaaki Imai
    • Speed Reading by Kam Knight