How to effectively use Kaizen and include innovation in your company?

Both Kaizen and Innovation are strategies to put a company on a path of improvement and maintenance. But these approaches will significantly change the way the company grows and how decisions are made, which in turn affect the speed and time investment of the different strategies that are put into place. They will both put your company on the track of progress, but it will come down to the economy you’re in and how its fast or slow pace defines your corporate take on things. So by analyzing the main differences you can see which will adjust itself to your organization.

Kaizen reflects a continuous improvement that is built upon procedures that your company already has. With small changes and consistent procedures that start adding up, your company will show how these strategies generate great impact. On the other hand, innovation is focused on implementing dynamic and fast-paced changes that improve the organization through completely new products or procedures. These strategies will have a dramatic impact, unlike the Kaizen process. Both are equally effective, but it will depend solely on what your company wants and in how much time and investment it’s willing to make. This can be considered the first major difference that jumps to eye, which is the effect and the duration of this effect on the organization.

For these impacts to occur in the aforementioned manner, companies applying Kaizen only need to take small steps, usually through improvements on current procedures, projects or products, not drastic measures. Innovation will take large strides with mid-term and long-term projects that will be easy enough to implement and will have immediate effect on the way the company works. Due to the differences, the chances for success in Kaizen are usually high, whereas in an innovation approach it can be considered abrupt and unsettled.

The involvement of the employees in the company will also vary. In a Kaizen approach, all of the employees are key to assuring the success of the strategies that are put in place. Here most employees will have a sense of teamwork, or collective spirit as they reach their expected goals. With innovation there will be an appointed team, and these employees will be the selected ones to implement the strategies. These employees are motivated to put forth individual effort and give ideas, which are then put into the team working on the innovation strategies.

While one strategy promotes preservation of the current strategies in the company, innovation takes on a reconstruction stance where all of the current strategies can possibly be started from scratch. The way to make the first one work the best is to apply the knowhow in the particular field or business, instead innovation works best with breakthrough be it technological or new theories and inventions.


Team work_kaizen_david kiger
Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley at

If your organization is looking to make a small investment, Kaizen will most likely be the one for you, although it will take quite a big effort to maintain the status quo. But, if you’d rather make a small effort to preserve the status quo and don’t mind making a big investment, innovation is the way to go.

Kaizen and innovation can actually work hand in hand, although you will have to decide the advantages that each alternative independently will bring to your organization. If your business is in a slow growing economy and you are more concerned with performance and process to obtain better results than Kaizen may the best alternative. If the industry you’re in is more of a fast growing economy and your criteria to evaluate success is the profit your business is making, then innovation will most likely be the route to take.

There are ways to combine these two strategies in a way that they can make the most out of your company. Although at first it may seem that you can either apply one or the other. First, determine how your current procedures are. If there is anything that has to be changed or modified, then you could initially implement Kaizen until you have reached a point where there is no room for improvement. Once that point has been reached innovate, generate a new improvement or change. Through Kaizen you can improve the new invention and progressively with teamwork, take the new invention to the point of reaching optimal performance. Once this new invention has reached a point where you cannot improve any further, it’s time once again to innovate and implement something completely new. This cycle can only further improve and promote the progress in your organization by maintaining a high level of innovation, but at the same time enhancing performance to the point that the organization can grow and show profit, while balancing the cycle of shifting from Kaizen to Innovation based on the point of the cycle your company is in.  


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