What is the Biggest Difference Between Kaizen and Innovation

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.

As a small business owner, you will always work on different types of improvements in your company. It doesn’t matter if you want to improve your products and services, or process. If you want to stay ahead of your competitors you will always work on improvements. Because of that, it is important to know about the difference between Kaizen and innovation.

But, you have two important roles. The first one is to maintain your current successful operations. In such a way you will be sure that you are on the right way for your small business. The second role that you will have as an entrepreneur or manager is to improve some of the main systems within your organization.

You can use more than 100 improvement ideas to start working on your business improvements today.

What is Kaizen?

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 into Kaizen and innovation. It is logical because both concepts will lead to different improvements. Innovation is something totally new, while improvement is something existing that will give better results.

Kaizen VS Innovation

Here is explanation about the definition of Kaizen from Masaaki Ima, the founder of Kaizen Institute.

What is the difference between Kaizen and innovation?

Here are some of the biggest differences between these two concepts:

1. Small improvements VS Dramatic improvements

Kaizen is focused on small improvements due to the ongoing efforts of the company’s staff members. On the other hand, innovation is focused on large, dramatic improvements due to big changes in technology and equipment.

2. Small steps in KAIZEN VS Big steps in Innovation

As an improvement concept, Kaizen is implemented through small steps that will improve the 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. For example, you can observe how the operator’s work is done, and you can discover that if you change something, it will decrease the time that the operator will need to spend to do the work. This is part of the KAIZEN concept.

On the other side, innovation is not something that you can implement in one day with several simple steps. Innovation will require projects that sometimes will last several months to several years.

3.Continuous improvements VS Periodic improvements

Because of possibilities for enemy small steps toward improvements, Kaizen is a continuous, never-ending approach. On the other side, innovation is periodic, something that you will implement from time to time.

4. Incremental improvements VS non-incremental improvements

Another difference between KAIZEN and Innovation as concepts is the results they bring to the company. Kaizen, from one side, is focusing on small improvements with small incremental results. For example, one Kaizen result in improved delivery time can be 4 days instead of 5 days before process improvement. On the other side, the focus of innovation is to bring non-incremental, radical results. For example, to find a solution for delivery time to be executed in 1 to 2 days instead of 5 days.

For the same example of delivery time, innovation will rebuild all processes included in delivery to reduce delivery time to only one day.

5. Little or no investments in KAIZEN VS large investments in Innovation

Kaizen, in many cases, will not require big investments in new technology and processes. It will use current resources to improve them. For example, the Kaizen concept will require improvements in the current technologies and processes. Contrary, innovation will require larger investments in time, money, and efforts. It will remove current processes, build a totally new one, or invest in totally new technology.

6. Improvements VS Rebuilding

This difference is closely related to the previous one. Kaizen focuses on improving current things in the company as products and services, processes, technology, and business models. On the other side, innovation will turn away these things and rebuild totally new, nonexistent things until now.

7. Higher efforts VS 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.

As you can see, both concepts are important for your small business. The KAIZEN is something that you can make on an everyday basis. In such a way your company will be better each day. You will decrease costs, increase productivity, profitability, etc. But still, after some period of time, you will need to implement innovation processes to bring high-rate improvement in your business operations. For example, you will need to innovate new processes, buy new modernized equipment, bring new products on the market, etc.

So, combining the KAIZEN concept with innovation will be important for your success as an entrepreneur and your business overall.

Dragan Sutevski

Posted by Dragan Sutevski

Dragan Sutevski is a founder and CEO of Sutevski Consulting, creating business excellence through innovative thinking. Get more from Dragan on Twitter. Contact Dragan