Kaizen (改善) means change for better in Japanese. It is an approach to improve the current situation, using small steps rather than planning a big change at once. The many small steps lead to a big result: such as finding new ways to cut your costs every day to reach financial freedom!
Swordsmanship, the origin of Kaizen
According to various sources, Kaizen was introduced to Japan after world war II by american business and quality teachers. I don’t believe this is the case. Sure, American experts helped in the rebuilding of Japan after the war, but Kaizen was already part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years.
Kazuyoshi Tsuyukusa wrote two very interesting articles on Kaizen: Kaizen as the way of live - originating in martial arts. And Kaizen-Do way of life and Kashima Shinto-Ryu. One of his conclusions is:
All ideas come from the traditional Japanese sword martial arts of Kenjutsu and Iai
Eliminating waste (or muda in Japanese) does not come from US manufacturing, it has its origin in martial arts.
Eliminating surplus movement is absolutely vital. Any excess means that if the opponent is good, my clumsiness will mean the end of my life.
The differences between east and west
Tsuyukusa explains that Kaizen in Japan is a positive approach or methodology. It focuses on understanding the present state, which is basically good. So there is no need to find the problem. Kaizen is applied to perfecting and harmonising the present state.
The western approach, used in Lean has a negative starting point: There is a problem, which needs to be investigated, and corrected by cutting away the incorrect elements, disturbing the balance.
In a deeper analysis Tsuyukusa suggests that the difference originates from the different views about humans. The west considers humans to be flawed at the core, while Japanese consider humans to be descendents from the gods and therefore good in the core.
Using Kaizen for financial freedom
Relax, I will not use a complicated business process for financial freedom. Recently the World Economic Forum posted: Kaizen could be the secret to success.
making constant small improvements that lead to a big transformational change, e.g. by getting 1% better every day. The basics are covered in three simple steps, adapted for financial freedom:
Identify small manageable steps to reduce costs. If it does not work try something else. For example:
- Try a different grocery store, or different products which are cheaper, to lower your food expenses
- Bring your lunch to work more often instead of eating in restaurants
- Isolate your house to lower your energy bill
- Pay off a little more on your mortgage
Find out where you are wasting money. Assess whether every task you do is serving your goal or could be executed more efficiently (read: cheaper)
Reflect on what changes are working and not working. You could follow a monthly review looking at your expenses and identifying if the small steps you took lead to lower monthly expenses. This will also help you prepare the upcoming month.
For some more inspiration on how to save money, live below your means and minimalism, check out these 4 video’s from fellow blogger David K. Drews at excesscash.net
How Toyota’s founder searched for financial freedom
Kaizen is often linked with Toyota, masters of efficiency and famous for The Toyota Way. According to available information, the founder of Toyota (Sakichi Toyoda) was a son of a carpenter, who happened to be from the same region as the last Samurai Shogun in Japan. Tsuyukusa says:
There is no official information and this is probably intentional. I wouldn’t be surprised if a thorough research brought up a discovery that Sakichi’s father was a former samurai, quite closely supporting the Daimyo Masaharu Inoue
To me this sounds very plausible. Besides the link between Japanese swordsmanship and Samurai, i encountered that the founder of Toyota, pursued financial freedom to do what he wanted to do most: In the official company history of Toyota, it says:
He wanted financial independence to better pursue his inventing career
Start improving today, so you can reach financial freedom as well, and be able to spend your time the way you want!
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash!