Innovation and Kaizen
After any change program or adoption of a new system it is recommended that "Competence and Innovation / Kaizen" phase be run. Competence relates to the successful mastery of the adopted approach to a degree that it is practically second nature to the organisation and does not require a lot of attention beyond maintenance. Innovation / Kaizen refers to the integration of a Kaizen culture continuously seeking small improvements. We recommend to integrate an occasional intensive burst of Innovation activity, using an Open Space event.
Kaizen is often contrasted to Innovation – the latter representing big steps, big leaps, mega ideas. Innovation is more dramatic and produces spectacular improvements which, however, are not necessarily sustainable. Big innovation and small Kaizen can be compared to the hare and the tortoise, the hare being innovation running fast in big leaps, the tortoise in little steps one step at a time. Both approaches are required. In a Kaizen culture one must be careful to avoid a Kaizen-only approach - that is an organisation extremely adept at finely improving and perfecting methods or products, which are, however, completely out of date (e.g. the fax machine). It is therefore important for a kaizen organisation to sometimes break out of its Kaizen mode and do some substantial out-of-the-box radical thinking.
We believe this is best achieved using Open Space Technology. Since disruptive out-of-the-box thinking cannot be pre-planned, it has to be done in a platform which is totally open and self-organised, both in terms of content as well as of participation. Pre-planning and organisation by definition defeat innovation. Serendipity and collective sensing are paramount. Open Space is based on self-organisation, opt-in participation and a market-place of ideas where people are free to follow their curiosity and passion through various clusters of interest. In the third phase, therefore, we recommend an ongoing platform or culture of Kaizen continuous improvement, interspersed once or twice a year, or as needed, with a mega-burst of radical innovation activity through an Open Space Innovation event to which the whole relevant workforce is invited.