Improve or Stagnate!

I went in to see a customer today and was empowered by what I saw, so much as to share the story with you all.


It’s all about improvement, it’s something I preach about in my coaching and so do many others. Tony Robbins calls in CANI – constant and never-ending improvement, the Japanese call it Kaizen and the great Steven Covey calls it Sharpen the Saw.


It’s a concept that is as true today as it was 100 years ago and will be the same a millennium from now!

grayscale photo of group of horse with carriage running on body of water

So the story. I met with a printing manufacturer, a giant in the printing world. They produce heat pressed printing solutions, ranging from apparel, to signage, pens and badges. They supply their products globally to almost every renowned brand in the world.


I was fortunate enough to be taken on a tour of their manufacturing facility. Now whilst I gratefully accepted the offer of the tour I rather judgementally thought in my head “I know exactly what I’m going to see” mainly because I’ve been on alike tours. I’ve seen competitors of theirs and was willing to bet that it’d be the same. They’ll be masses of people drawing, cutting, printing and operating machinery. At least that’s what I thought initially, but how wrong I was.


When I walked into their manufacturing plant I saw first-hand why they were so successful, they focused on improvement. 13 years ago they worked like any other print manufacturer, a manual approach like my judgemental prediction, being at the peril of a human being for every process. But this business focused on doing things differently and improving their processes.


Over a 13 year window they set their goals, they wanted:

  • Autonomy
  • 24/7 operations
  • Robotic approach with limited human interaction


That was exactly what they had achieved. Yes it had been a struggle, yes they had difficulty in the transition but now they were reaping the rewards. Turnover and profits had grown, manufacturing problems were down considerably and it also gave them great agility to venture into new markets.


This made me think about my improvement. What measures am I taking every day to improve my practices and those whom I coach? I know that it’s something I strive for but am I really investing enough time looking internally to see what processes I can streamline or practices I can make more seamless.


Here’s the thing though, I’m not the only one whom should be asking this of myself, you should be too!


If we’re ever going to improve we need to conduct some self-analysis. The famous quote from Albert Einstein has become somewhat overused but it holds so much truth


“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein


What are the things you want to improve?


How can you do things more effectively?


I can’t give you all these answers, but if you take the time for some internal reflection you’ll come up with those answers.

There are countless examples in today’s world where people are focusing on improvement to excel in the world. Think of some of the biggest disrupters in their respective markets right now, they’re cornering the market by looking at how a solution, product or industry can be improved. Such examples include:

  • Airbnb
    • Focused on improving the customers access to affordable, short stay accommodation.
    • Also gave landlords as easy way to earn extra income from rooms or properties in their portfolio.
  • Uber
    • Focused on improving the customers access to affordable and readily available transport services.
    • Provided car owners with the opportunity to earn extra income through providing taxi services.
  • Netflix
    • Focused on providing instant, cost effective access to thousands of films and documentaries straight to a persons home TV.
  • Venmo
    • Focused on giving users the ability to make or share payments with friends easily through a smart phone.


These are the success stories of the 21st century, but there’s nothing new here. The principle is still the same and it always has been, a person or business has focused on improving something whether that be the customer experience or the way we use or interact with something.


Henry Ford did the same thing with the transition from horse and cart to motor vehicles. Thomas Edison did the same with the movement from candle light to the lightbulb. At every point in history, innovation has come from an individual trying to improve upon an item or a circumstance.


So take this on board. I’m not saying you should try to reinvent the wheel. I’m merely highlighting that we all should invest some time thinking about improvement.


He who stays the same will notice growth stagnate and atrophy should improvements not be made!


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