As I wrote in a previous post, foreign cultures often retain their original name, like lee-daa-shippu in Japanese. Some Japanese words, besides honcho (originally hancho), are used in English and in some other languages. One of the example is kaizen. It originally means (and in Japan we only mean) “improvement” in general. But in the manufacturing industry, it means activities to improve manufacturing processes. It sounds like “improvement” to me, and I have wondered why it is called kaizen. I have not done any research on it, but now I have got a hypothesis through my current non-design, non-creative job, which is interpretation at a plant.

When designers and engineers design consumer products, they strive to improve the products to meet and exceed users’ expectations, which include both functionality and usability. On the other hand, as I observed and wrote in an old post, engineers and technicians in a plant are “users” of the facilities in the plant, but those machines are typically not user friendly; once they are designed, they remain as they are originally designed as long as they function as expected. As I mentioned above, I have not done any research in kaizen, and now I only guess. Having said that, I guess, if engineers see factory workers as “users”, they strive to improve facilities, which is so unusual that people want to name it differently from other activities, and named it kaizen. This is only a guess, and probably not true, but makes sense to me. For technology-oriented, non-creative engineers, this must be a paradigm shift which is difficult to accept, but it should happen to make “user” friendly work environment for factory workers. But I know changing customs is not easy especially for conservative people. They need to be more creative to make changes.

By the way, do you know why hyperlinks are blue by default? According to this internet article, “Why is facebook blue?“, it is because of a very early web browser: Mosaic, which was designed for academic use. The background color of Mosaic was gray, and blue was the only color available at that time to make hyperlinks outstanding and still readable. Today, of course, this is not always the case; hyperlink color can be changed easily by adding a few lines in CSS. When creative people design a web site and make it user friendly, changing customs is not a big deal. (By the way, this is only a trivial topic in the internet article, and it includes more interesting tips on colors on web sites.)

I’ve been away from creative job for a long time. Working with conservative, non-creative people often depresses me, but it is also good to observe how they behave, or how they stick to their old customs. It gives me ideas of how we, creative people should make changes.

May 28, 2013Permalink