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Personal Development & Change

Personal Development & Change
22 September 2014 John Moore

As we say good-bye to Robin Williams, it made me think how is it that greats like Robin Williams and Joan Rivers endue over time? I think it is their commitment to personal development and change.

Mork from Ork

Do you remember the bizarre behaviour and antics of Mork from Ork. Sent to Earth to study human life, Mork was on a journey of personal growth and development. And although her many cosmetic changes, Joan Rivers, too, was able to re-invent herself to stay current – ending up with a thriving fashion jewellery business.

They found new ways of expressing themselves; they explored new ideas and new ways of presenting themselves; they embraced continuous personal and professional development. Of course, they all started with talent, but they learned to refine and develop their talents. They may not have known it, but Robin and Joan use many of the principles associated with Kaizen.


The word Kaizen means “continuous improvement”. It comes from the Japanese words 改 (“kai”) which means “change” or “to correct” and 善 (“zen”) which means “good”.

Kaizen is about mak­ing small and continuous changes, mon­i­tor­ing the results and then adjust­ing. It empha­sises well-being and it is a pow­er­ful strat­egy for change since it encour­ages small improve­ments that are eas­ier to stick with. The cumu­la­tive effect of con­tin­u­ous but small change is tremendous.

A closer look at the Japanese usage of Kaizen is “to take it apart and put back together in a better way.” It involves learning from experience, reflecting and making changes to improve and to add value. This sounds a lot like continuous personal and professional development to me!

10 Principles of Kaizen

Here are ten principles associated with Kaizen:

  • Say no to status quo, implement new methods and assume they will work
  • If something is wrong (or not working as well as you would like), correct it
  • Accept no excuses and make things happen
  • Improve everything continuously
  • Abolish old, traditional concepts, behaviours and habits
  • Be economical and save money through small improvements and spend the saved money on further improvements
  • Empower other people to help solve problems
  • Before making decisions, ask “why” five times to get to the root cause
  • Seek information and feedback from people
  • Remember that improvement has no limits, therefore never stop trying to improve

What would personal and professional development look like if you were to adopt a Kaizen style approach? It would mean that learning took place continuously and in real time rather than in set blocks of time. It would mean that learning to learn and to reflect on experience was the norm. It would mean asking people about their ideas, solutions and experience rather than just seeking knowledge. Also it would mean seeking feedback and inputs from others rather than working alone.

It would mean making many small changes daily and weekly rather than trying to implement one revolutionary, seismic change in a single giant leap. It would mean networking and communicating with others who share your philosophy, who have been there and have achieved what you are trying to achieve; and it would mean being prepared to share your knowledge and insights with other people as well as learning from them.

In many respects, this is the Exponential Training philosophy and certainly, a principle embedded in the European project LEXSHALEarning, EXploring and SHaring. So in the words of the great Robin Williams:

“There is still a lot to learn and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful.”

Robin Williams 1951 – 2014

This is Ork signing off..

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John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.


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