Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way

This book has made its way back from inside the closet, to the shelf that is in clear sight. I was looking for another book or was I putting a book away? Well, for some reason, these past few days, my intuition has been telling me to see if I still have the small book review that I wrote for a feature writing journalism course I took a little over four years ago. I figured I did and so I pulled it up and wondered, should I post it?…and so here it is.


Kaizen on the Brain:  How taking small steps can change your life.

“Shhh, don’t wake the Amygdala!”  The amygdala, a structure of the brain within the midbrain, is the control center for our flight or flight response where we detect danger or a stressful situation.  Many of us have experienced stress when we try to make quick change in our lives or when we set unmanageable goals.  Too often, we set ourselves up for failure, leaving a goal unfinished, or worst, we may never get started.

There is hope, however, if we are willing to learn a new approach to understanding and approaching change.  In his book "One Small Step Can Change Your Life:  The Kaizen Way," Robert Maurer, Ph. D., lays out his ideas on Kaizen, a Japanese management concept that entails making continuous and steady improvements.  It is a principle—a mindset—that invites you to always seek ways to make small improvements, and shows how we can apply this method to just about anything we want to change in our lives.

Written in a digestible manner, the sections are laid out in small chunks.  The tone is lively, yet authoritative, providing some history about Kaizen.  Dr. Maurer offers his readers simple, but powerful techniques on how to elicit change in our lives.  He outlines why we resist change and discusses, in lay terms, the fear response the brain goes through when we try to chew on too much.

Each chapter is devoted to an explanation, example, and application of the techniques:  ask small questions, think small thoughts, take small actions, solve small problems, bestow small thoughts, and identify small moments.  He suggests that we don’t have to employ each of these strategies, but to instead take and use the ones that make the most sense to us.

You may wonder if this may sound like just another self-help book in disguise.  But don’t let that deter you.  In this small but potent book, Dr. Maurer offers the reader the science behind why he thinks small continuous improvements work when applied to making personal change, providing practical examples and research to show why he believes Kaizen gets results. 

Already, I have been trying some of these techniques for myself, and have found that it is a challenge in itself to learn to approach things from such an incremental standpoint, but I have noticed that I’ve begun breaking things down into more manageable pieces, so that I don’t become overwhelmed with a given goal or task.  I find that in our fast paced environment, where we tend to tackle challenges by diving head first into the abyss, this is a fresh outlook, blending science, psychology, philosophy, and melding it with Kaizen. 

By opening this book, you are on your way toward re-framing the way you look at and approach change.  Much of what is offered may seem like good old common sense, but what makes this book worth reading is that it invites the reader to remember these common sense applications and understand why we resist change, showing how we can better approach it to create lasting results.  As Dr. Maurer states in his preface, the essence of Kaizen is captured in the words of Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”


Vincent said...

You've made the book sound attractive. Did they teach you 3 rules of book reviews? I think I got this from Martin Amis who started his professional career writing reviews for the TLS (Times Literary Supplement).

The three rules sound very simple but many reviews fail on one or more of them. Here they are (from memory):

1) Say what the book is about.

2) Say what the author thinks about what the book is about.

3) Say what you think about what the author thinks about what the book is about.

In my reckoning, you have included all three, yet I would feel it more valuable if you mentioned some negatives (surely there would be some!) instead of making it sound like a puff from the publisher! Very eloquently written, though.

Rebb said...

Vincent, To tell you the truth, I don’t recall what they taught specifically about book reviews. I even looked through my notes because I was curious but I didn’t find anything. It’s possible she gave us a write up and I had a book that I probably referred to, but I got rid of it.

What sticks in my mind though about journalistic feature writing that I may have applied—from the class—is to always have a strong lead to hook the reader; then address meat (The five W’s and the H) in this case, a summary of the book; conclude with a take away—or what comes back to me from my speech class—is a prompt to action—and in this case, I want the reader to check the book out.

Thank you very much Vincent for sharing the 3 rules.

I don’t think there were any negatives for me at the time. Maybe if I read it again, I would find something.