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Kaizen Creativity

Breaking Preconceived Notions

One of the harder things for people to do at work is to really cut their creativity loose. Industry as a whole tends to reward successful creativity, but when ideas, especially ones that have just a sprinkling of ‘crazy’ on top, don’t pan out, the person can be viewed in a less than positive light.

Lean, especially kaizen events, requires a lot of creativity to be successful. In effect, Lean is a very broad approach to problem solving. And often, the most effective solutions to problems require a healthy dose of creativity.

Kaizen Creativity

Use your creativity to break preconceived notions in kaizen events

Once your company develops a Lean culture, everyone will be more comfortable bouncing around off-the-wall ideas. Until then, your best strategy is to find ways to improve the odds of your ideas working.

I often do a little assumption-busting exercise to find creative solutions. For example, an ID card retractor has a few built-in assumptions (here is an example of an ID card retractor in my Lean Store). First, that it has to hold ID cards. And second, that it has to be hooked to a person’s body. Take a look at the things around you and break them down to the core functions, not the accepted use.

When you break your preconceived notions, you broaden an item’s usefulness. During a kaizen event I was facilitating years ago, I happened to be wearing my ID card on a retractor, and ended up donating it to a new workstation. It had just the right pull on it to hold a little test fixture. It became a very small tool balancer at a price tag of under $2 at the time.

Kids are great at shattering assumptions about how things are ‘supposed’ to be. When you get a little of that 10-year old mindset, you open up a whole new range of possibilities.

I’d love to have you share some of that creativity of yours. What are some examples of times you have used an item in a far different way than it was intended?

(Note: This article is one of the 17 Lessons I Learned from Japanese Consultants.)


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