Review: Shingo’s Kaizen and the Art of Creative Thinking


By Ralf Lippold, Leipzig Germany:

Kaizen and the Art of Creative Thinking – The Scientific Thinking Mechanism

How does it contribute to the lean knowledge base?

Shigeo Shingo offers a scientific way to get into Kaizen from a bundle of different perspectives in order to strive towards perfection. To achieve improvements through Kaizen, one often has to think “out of the box” and he embeds this perfectly in small stories that happened to him during his time as a consultant to various firms besides Toyota.

What are the highlights? What works?

Shigeo Shingo, at an early stage in history, talks implicitly about mental models that often hinder us from doing things in other ways we yet know of or used to do. Shingo slowly leads the reader through different stages of understanding where these mental models stem from and what they can result in (e.g. not solving the current pressing problems).

As the reader connects to Shingo's writing style and the connection with current reality while reading the book all of the little stories and anecdotes will make perfect sense.

As soon as the reader sees what Shingo is trying to accomplish, he will look for more personally experienced examples in his own work field and that is just what intended to happen. Further finding depend totally on the reader's creativity -and that's exactly what the whole book is about.

A great benefit towards other books on lean topics is the easy language in the told stories that can be easily shared through storytelling and therefore give way to easier connection with workforce.

What are the weaknesses? What's missing?

For readers who are used to more clearly structured -from their point of view- books on Lean or Kaizen will be probably a bit disturbed as the small anecdotes feel awkward as there is not always a straight connection to current reality. As one might suspect, this is totally done on purpose to propel new thinking in the reader's mind in order to find new solutions to common problems and -sometimes not yet- seen ones.

A shortcoming could be the diagrams covering the methodology of the analytical thinking as they are in a way disconnected from the rest of the writing.

How should I read this to get the most out of it?

The book can be read straight through – for a first run. After that initial reading a diving into specific sections in the book such as “Capturing Problems” or “Promoting Improvement Ideas” once in a while due to actual happening topics can be quite useful.

As learning begins with thinking and reflection about the told stories and how they apply to one's own work field it opens a wide field for discussion with colleagues and friends in order to unearth hidden mental models (personal assumptions due to experience) and open the gate to new learning.

Especially the last part of the book “Promoting Improvement Ideas” is extremely valuable for everyone concerned with change.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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