Get better at getting better

The Japanese concept of kaizen includes getting better at getting better as a key ingredient to productivity. Kaizen can be loosely translated as a “good change”. For superlearner the change is a continuous process that optimizes our existence, a cycle of questioning, learning and implementation.

In kaizen this cycle includes

This kind of continuous improvement can be broken down into six steps:

  1. Standardize: Come up with a process for a specific activity that’s repeatable and organized.
  2. Measure: Examine whether the process is efficient using quantifiable data, like time to complete, hours spent, etc.
  3. Compare: Compare your measurements against your requirements. Does this process save time? Does it take too much time? Does it accomplish the desired result?
  4. Innovate: Search for new, better ways to do the same work or achieve the same result. Look for smarter, more efficient routes to the same end-goal that boost productivity.
  5. Standardize: Create repeatable, defined processes for those new, more efficient activities.
  6. Repeat: Go back to step one and start again.

Now this is a great advise for a superlearner. We generate methods that are measurable, repeatable and reusable. We start with visualization, then we reuse the visualization for creativity and memory improvement, we build speedreading upon stronger memory and we base learning skills upon our reading abilities. There are two additional steps that are extremely important for learning and we do not really mention them anywhere in our course: identify the need for change [before learning] and implement lessons learnt [after learning].

The need for change is required as a driving motivation for learning. A superlearner should always ask himself: what skill or knowledge will make maximal change in my well-being/understanding/contribution with minimal effort investment. Once an answer emerges, there are very few obstacles we cannot overcome on our way to knowledge. On the other hand, if search for knowledge is not focused, we will loose interest, retreat and loose confidence.

The implementation part is harder. Before we start implementation and at each step of implementation process we should ask ourselves: is it worth the effort? If the answer is “no go”, maybe it is better to limit the losses. However if the answer is always “no go”, maybe our risk aversion limits our progress. In any case, if the answer is “go”, we have an obligation to ourselves to implement what we learnt in practice, even if it is hard. Most of the people do not follow this logic deciding “too much work” at the crucial moment, however this is probably the best opportunity to invest your energy and benefit from the results. Alternatively many say “we need to finish ABC first” and after ABC there is DEF and GHI. In fact procrastination is worst way to kill any opportunity for progress: at least be honest to yourself and understand the true reason for not progressing ahead. In my experience a good schedule induces positive preparation and reduces negative procrastination.

Asking the right question, finding a good answer and acting upon the new understanding generate positive change in our world. Let us get better at getting better!

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