While Kaizen and innovation both bring improvements in the company’s products and/or services, processes, and business models, they have big differences, especially in the way they are implemented and the results they are bringing to the company.
Masaaki Imai, the author of the Kaizen concept differentiates two major management components: maintenance and improvement.
Maintenance requires activities as maintaining current operations of the company as technological, managerial, and operational standards. On the other hand, improvement can be broken down between Kaizen and innovation. It is logical because both concepts will lead to different improvements.
What is the difference between Kaizen and innovation?
Here are some of the biggest differences between these two concepts:
- Kaizen’s small improvements VS innovation’s dramatic improvements. Kaizen is focused on small improvements as a result of ongoing efforts of the company’s staff members. On the other hand, innovation is focused on large, dramatic improvements as a result of big changes in technology and equipment.
- Kaizen’s small steps VS innovation’s big steps. Kaizen, as an improvement concept is implemented through small steps that will improve current work of any part of the company. It will not require complex tools, but sometimes simple observations to discover simple problems that will need a solution as an improvement effort. Innovation, on the other side is not something that can be implemented in one day with several simple steps. Innovation will require projects that sometimes will last several months to several years.
- Kaizen’s continuous improvements VS innovation’s periodic improvements. Because of possibilities to enemy small steps toward improvements, Kaizen is continuous never ending approach. On the other side, innovation is periodic, something that will be implemented from time to time.
- Kaizen’s incremental improvements VS innovation’s non-incremental improvements. Another difference between these concepts is the results they bring to the company. Kaizen is focusing on small improvements with small incremental results. For example, one Kaizen result in improvements of the delivery time can be 4 days instead of 5 days before process improvement. On the other side innovation is focused to bring non-incremental, radical results. For the same example about the delivery time, innovation will rebuild all processes included in delivery in order to reduce delivery time on only one day.
- Kaizen’s little investments VS innovation’s large investments. Kaizen in many cases will not require big investments in new technology and processes. It will use current resources to improve them. For example, Kaizen concept will require improvements on the current technologies and processes. Contrary, innovation will require larger investments in time, money, and efforts. It will remove current processes and build totally new one, or will invest in totally new technology and so on.
- Kaizen’s improvements VS innovation’s rebuilding. This difference is closely related to previous one. Kaizen is focusing to improve current things in the company as products and services, processes, technology and business models. Innovation, on the other side will turn away these things and rebuild totally new, nonexistent things until now.
- Kaizen’s great efforts VS innovation’s little efforts. Maintaining continuous improvements in the company will require greater efforts than implementing periodic innovation projects. This is another difference between Kaizen and innovation.