A pharmaceutical company can create new products by either:
- Making small improvements to already existing drugs or
- Making a large breakthrough to develop a new type of drug
None of the two approaches are wrong. Better drugs have been formulated through either approach. In the end, it may come down to an individual company’s risk tolerance and business philosophy. I mention that example today because more often than not, when people are looking to improve a process, they try looking for a breakthrough. Similar results can often be achieved if one focuses on making small consistent improvements to an already existing process.
This philosophy that seeks for making small continuous improvements to a process instead of seeking to create a potentially more complex system has been captured by a Japanese word, Kaizen. Kaizen has become such an integral part of the success of Japanese companies that people have studied how the philosophy can be applied to things outside the business world.
In our lives, we all battle with processes, we would like to change. Most people have something that annoys them or something they should remember but keep forgetting. Those are prime areas where small changes can make a huge difference. If, for example, there is something you’d like to do but keep forgetting, making it a task in a to-do list is guaranteed to make sure you do not forget. If it’s a recurrent task, setting up reminders on your phone will ensure you start working on the task before the deadline. Both creating a to-do list task and setting up a reminder are by their nature simple yet done consistently, they translate into giant productivity gains.
Recently, I faced a vexing problem at work. I had to attend monthly meetings with a group of people who had other responsibilities and often did not work from the same building. These people were for the most part, not heavy digital users so reminders to attend the meeting were often had to be shared verbally a week to the meeting. By the meeting day, some of them would have forgotten and time would have to be spent trying to locate as many of them as possible to achieve a quorum. I realised one thing: sending them a reminder sms containing the meeting venue and time two days before the meeting resulted in a 100% attendance rate. They may not be smartphone users but they still had cellphones and all of them read their text messages. A few text messages each month saved me more time and headache than I could probably quantify.
Trying to come up with a solution from the other end of the spectrum would have required a drastic overhaul of the way they worked, training in the use of digital tools and equipping them with smart gadgets. This solution was way beyond my scope and budget. The next time you are faced with a vexing situation, try to have an open mind that sees the challenge as an opportunity to try something new. Some processes just need a small step added to make them more efficient. 20 text messages a month saved me hours. What small thing can save you from your annoying situation?