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Kai 【改】


Since my last post was about Zen【善】 inside Kaizen, this post is about Kai【改】.


As I looked deeper into this symbol, it reminded me of my coach’s favorite book.


“Self Renewal” by John W. Gardner.


My last post was about “Research of Zen” by Kitaro Nishida, whose thinking helps us understand the deep philosophy of Kaizen (At least for me).

This time, on the other symbol, Kai 【改】.


Kai【改】is an old symbol classified as semantic-complex composite kanji, which means that the symbol combines original pronunciation and components with meanings.





The left part is 【己】, which means self. Many symbols represent “self.” 【自】which is used in Jidouka and Jikoutei, represents “self” in general. 【我】will mean more of an ego. 【私】used as private or I. Compared to the other ones,【己】represents the humble self.





The right side 【攵】means to hit. The bottom part represents a hand, and the upper part represents a noise. It probably represents the hand hitting something. So, combining these two components, we create the symbol Kai 【改】, meaning self-reflection.


On top of the original meaning of Kai 【改】, the Japanese added a reading. We read this symbol as “Aratameru.” This word is a version of “New.” While the “New【新】” kept the meaning, this Kai 【改】started to mean “re-new” around the 9th century. Several other words originate from this word are “Oshii”【惜しい】, which means precious, nearly, almost, and “Mottainai” 【勿体無い】, which means wasteful, uneconomical. Somehow, we Japanese thought these words were similar.



So this symbol 【改】contains;

1️⃣ Humble self

2️⃣ Self-reflection

3️⃣ Renew



As I look at these meanings, they remind me of a book by John W. Gardner called “Self-Renewal.”


This book was one of my Japanese TPS coach's favorite books. His thoughts were that if such a book existed and were read in a society, then the philosophy of Kaizen would become mutually understood. There might be some minor differences, but the core is connected. He brought about fifty copies of this book and distributed it as a side reading of Kaizen (The center activity remained on the shop floor.).


So, I ended up explaining “Kaizen” as Engineering (Science) with the philosophy of Gardner and Nishida.

But this represents what Kaizen is.

1️⃣ East or West doesn’t matter. Deep inside, we are all humans. There must be something common.

2️⃣ Challenge the silo or binary or discipline thinking. Kaizen is not a department’s activity or a specialist’s activity. It is always multi-discipline or the generalist.

3️⃣ Kaizen is Genba activity.

4️⃣ Kaizen happens at all levels, from individual to corporate.

5️⃣ Kaizen is about continuous learning. We learn and try everything to reach the ideal Zen 【善】.


So, please recommend other books that are related to Kaizen.

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