Kaizen and the Art of Creative Thinking

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 09-06-08

Author: Shigeo Shingo

Publication Date: 2007

Book Description: What’s the key message?

Kaisen and the Art of Creative Thinking is a new translation of a book Dr. Shingo wrote in 1958, but there is nothing outdated about it. Simple on the surface, the book may take several readings to fully understand. Dr. Shingo examined the way the human mind works to solve problems, and as engineers will do, analyzed it in detail, and reduced it to a series of interrelated diagrams.

He drew on the work of thinkers from Descartes to Gilbreth, Aristotle to the guy on the shop floor. It covers principles of analytical thinking, how to capture and fully understand problems, engaging people in generating ideas for solving problems, improvement principles, implementing ideas, and creating an appetite for change among all members of an organization.

How does it contribute to the lean knowledge base?

Shingo’s work and thinking are part of the foundation of the lean knowledge base. In this book, we get more insight into how he thought and whay he was so influential on the people he taught.

What are the highlights? What works?

Dr. Shingo explored how each concept works and how to use its related techniques effectively. Practice is supported by easy-to-remember lists like: the principle of two, five elements of a problem, 12 steps of idea generation, five improvement principles, and the ten objections.

Dr. Shingo added a liberal sprinkling of anecdotes that could be read alone to help the reader do a better job of leading continuous improvement, and he didn’t hesitate to talk about his own proposed solutions that failed when they were tried out. He often illustrated how he listened more closely to the people doing the work to change the approach to the problem, over and over if necessary. The stories are accompanied by words of wisdom, like the importance of not giving up on solving a problem, and that 99 percent of objections are really advice.

Illustrations are particularly helpful for visual thinkers, who get more out of pictures and diagrams than by verbal explanations.

What are the weaknesses? What’s missing?

While the illustrations and diagrams are excellent, they may leave the reader wishing for more.

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

What sort of learner are you? Are you a verbal learner who responds to stories about people? Do you prefer to read analytical descriptions? Are you a visual learner who does best with pictures and diagrams? You probably want to skim the book for the type of material that works best for you. Then you should read it again using a different learning mode and try to integrate it with what you learned in the first pass. Repeat as necessary.

Note: Through his enduring friendship with Mrs. Shingo, Norman Bodek was able to find this manuscript and get the rights to translate and publish it. Bodek first brought Dr. Shingo’s work to the U.S. and published it in translation at Productivity Press, and he was responsible for dozens of other influential books being made available, first in English and then in many other languages.