Japanese Innovation: Kaizen and Kakushin

Japanese Innovation: Kaizen and Kakushin

The CEO of Toyota, Katsuaki Watanabe, was recently interviewed and written up in an article in the Wall Street Journal. Watanabe was also recently interviewed in the July-August edition of the Harvard Business Review. In the interviews, Watanabe talks about radical innovation: he describes the idea of building a dream car that cleans the environment, prevents accidents, can travel the world on a single tank of gas, and of course is cheap and high quality.

Watanabe's talk of innovation - and his use of the Japanese word Kakushin for it - has triggered some discussion on the blogosphere. In particular, there has been interest regarding the relationship of Kaizen (continuous improvement) to Kakushin (innovation) and Kaikaku (revolutionary change). See for example here and here.

In his book Kaizen, Imai described innovation as more of a Western approach. Japanese innovation is often described in terms of Kaizen only, so it is interesting to see radical, breakthrough innovation described from the Japanese perspective of the company that made Kaizen famous.

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