One of my favorite quotes from Eiji Toyoda, former President of Toyota, is;
“Don’t think mechanically. Even a dry towel can produce water when ideas are conceived.”
Eiji was talking about Kaizen. Toyota talks about “There is always a better way”. This is the spirit of kaizen…reaching higher and challenging ourselves to find a better way in everything we do… every single day.
I recently relistened to a Freaknomics podcast called “A Better Way to Eat”. In the podcast, the host Stephen Dubner talked with Takeru Kobeyashi, a Japanese competitive eater now living in America. When Kobi, as he is called by his fans, came into the field, the world record was 25 and 1/8th hot dogs in 12 minutes. Kobi blew the record out of water with his first appearance in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, held every July Fourth on Coney Island in New York. Kobi ate 50 hot dogs in the same amount of time, almost doubling the record. The contest has been going on for over 40 years and Kobi completely broke the paradigm. Many people were in denial and some even accused Kobi of doping.
In Dubner’s opinion, Kobi looked at the problem differently thus changing the field of competitive eating forever. The question that others were tackling was – how can I maximize the number of hot dogs I eat? The question that Kobi looked at was – how can I make one hot dog easier to eat?
Putting my Lean glasses on, this made me think about the mass production versus one-piece flow production paradigm. The thinking at that time was to simply eat more hot dogs without analyzing the process. Kobi, however focused on eating one hot dog and making that process easier. Kobi researched the sport and came up with several strategies that gave him a superior edge over the competition. Some of his strategies were to split the hot dog into two and eat with both hands; and the other was to dunk the bun into water, squeeze it into a ball and gulp it down. The splitting of the hot dog came to be known as the “Solomon Method” after the story of King Solomon who settled a maternity dispute by saying that he would cut a baby in half. Several competitors started copying Kobi’s strategies and were able to double their eating intake resulting in improved performances.
In the podcast, Kobi gave the following advice about breaking the more than 40 year old artificial barrier;
I think the thing about human beings is that they make a limit in their mind of what their potential is. They decide I’ve been told this, or this is what society tells me, or they’ve been made to believe something. If every human being actually threw away those thoughts and they actually did use that method of thinking to everything the potential of human beings is great, it’s huge, compared to what they actually think of themselves. That is a factor that…If everyone could use it for everything, everything could be much better.
There is a similar lesson from Jesse Itzler, author of Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet. The lesson is as follows;
When your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done.
Always keep on learning…
In case you missed it, my last post was Toyota, The Green Tomato.