When Real Innovation is Spelled With a ‘K’

Describing Any Improvement as an ‘Innovation’ Could Be More Hype Than Reality

August 5, 2019

Genuine innovation is rarer than you might believe.

Today almost any improvement could be claimed as an “innovation.” However, this tendency to describe incremental improvements in such lofty terms is clearly more hype than reality. Applying technology that is far from state-of-the-art may be better than what was done before, but that does not necessarily earn the label of innovation.

The three Ks from the world famous Toyota production system are used to make the point. 

While Kaizen (literally change + good) is evolutionary, Kaikaku (literally change + transform) is revolutionary. The third K in Japanese is Kakushin, which means “transform + new.” It is the Japanese word for innovation.

In Japanese business theory Kakushin is not just taking something, polishing it up and making it slightly better. Nor is it taking an existing solution and applying it to your own business. Every now and then an opportunity occurs to take the Kakushin step; a genuinely innovative approach that solves a problem in an entirely new way.

The simple way of thinking about the distinction is that Kaikaku is something new to you. Kakushin is new to everyone.

Swisslog has developed a detailed white paper, Kaizen Paradox II – How The Application Of Kaizen Principles To Transformative Technology Delivers Real Innovation.

It provides a new understanding of what innovation actually is, with concrete examples from history and the modern day. The white paper provides guidance on how genuine innovation can be achieved, including how organizations can approach business transformation and investments can deliver genuine innovation.

As a recent example, Swisslog was asked to provide a fully automated layer picking robot solution for a big name global customer, a significant leap in performance. However we went one step further in developing the CarryStar, a genuinely new way of handling and picking products that has a wide application especially in the food and drink sector.

This second white paper follows on from The Kaizen Paradox: How Incremental Improvements Can Impede Innovation, which explored issues where small changes can delay or even block transformative investment.

Innovation is a vital business tool. It helps organizations take the big leap forward. One that takes them beyond their competitors rather than just keeping up with them.

You could spell real innovation with a capital K.

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