When we talk about continuous improvement—sometimes referred to by the Japanese term kaizen—we often discuss it in the context of the workplace. We think about ways that processes such as assembling parts, organizing the workspace or communicating with coworkers can be improved.
An article in this month’s issue of the New Yorker titled “Getting Better at Getting Better” examines the way that many parts of our lives, not just the workplace, have continuously improved over the past century. The skill levels of professional athletes and musicians, the author says, were previously attained by only a few. Now, if you look at the NBA, almost all the basketball players play at a very high level. How did this happen?
The article’s author asserts that over the years, especially in the wake of World War II, we began focusing more on training. Professional athletes now spend specific amounts of time lifting weights, getting cardiovascular exercise and working on their skills. In some cases, their diets and sleep are even regulated. We’ve tried to find more and more small changes we can make to create the optimal athlete.
The author writes:
But what’s happened in sports over the past forty years teaches that the way to improve the way you perform is to improve the way you train. High performance isn’t, ultimately, about running faster, throwing harder, or leaping farther. It’s about something much simpler: getting better at getting better.
We’ve improved the way we train athletes, and as a result, there are a greater number of elite athletes.
The author goes on to explain that this practice of continuously improving training should be applied to other disciplines, perhaps teaching and customer service. Continuous improvement has many applications, in many areas of life and in many workplaces. Getting started is a matter of thinking about the way we do things and the way we train our people.
Read the full article at The New Yorker.
To learn more about continuous improvement and kaizen, download this free guide.