Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Concepts and words from far away

Back in June 2013 I blogged about Finding the right word (or not). When we don’t have that word in English, we may instead borrow one from somewhere else far away.

Over at Mother Nature Network I read a blog post from December 30, 2014 by Starre Vartan with the dogmatic title of 7 Cultural Concepts we don’t have in the U.S. In alphabetical order her seven are:

1] Friluftsliv (Norwegian for free air life)

2] Gemütlichkeit (German for coziness)

3] Hygge (Danish for mental coziness or togetherness)

4] Jugaad (Hindi for an innovative fix or an improvised solution born from ingenuity)

5] Kaizen (Japanese for continuous improvement)

6] Shinrin-yoku (Japanese for forest bathing)

7] Wabi-sabi (Japanese for embracing the imperfect)

#2, gemütlichkeit clearly is a concept we’ve had for some time, since that word appears in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. For an example, see a 2013 web page Oktoberfest in Fredricksburg - Celebrates 33 years of Texas Gemütlichkeit. #3 is a variation of #2. 

#1, #4 and #6 were new to me, but I burst out laughing when I saw she had included both #5 kaizen and #7 wabi-sabi.

Kaizen is well-known in manufacturing. The Environmental Protection Agency has a web site section on Lean Thinking and Methods with a web page on kaizen, which says that:

“Lean production is founded on the idea of kaizen – or continual improvement. This philosophy implies that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over a long period result in significant improvements. The kaizen strategy aims to involve workers from multiple functions and levels in the organization in working together to address a problem or improve a process. The team uses analytical techniques, such as value stream mapping and ‘the 5 whys’, to identify opportunities quickly to eliminate waste in a targeted process or production area. The team works to implement chosen improvements rapidly (often within 72 hours of initiating the kaizen event), typically focusing on solutions that do not involve large capital outlays.”

For the past six year’s I’ve been reading Garr Reynold’s blog, Presentation Zen. Back on September 27, 2009 he posted about Personal Kaizen: 15 Tips for your continuous improvement.

Garr also has discussed wabi-sabi. Back in 2005 he posted about Wabi-Sabi and Presentation Visuals (part I) and (part 2). I checked the online catalog for metro Boise public libraries and found three books each about wabi-sabi and kaizen:

Wabi-sabi: the Japanese art of impermanence; Andrew Juniper, 2003

Living wabi sabi: the true beauty of your life; Taro Gold, 2004

Wabi sabi simple: create beauty, value imperfection, live deeply; Richard S. Powell, 2005

Gemba kaizen: a commonsense low-cost approach to management; Masaki Imai, 1997

One small step can change your life: the kaizen way; Robert Maurer, 2004

The spirit of kaizen: creating lasting excellence one small step at a time; Robert Maurer and Leigh Ann Hirschman, 2012

Ms. Vartan’s bio says she:

“...is the founder and editor of Eco-Chick.com, an award-winning nine-year-old website that covers ethical travel, eco fashion, natural beauty, environmental art and worldchanging women.”

She may not have concepts like kaizen, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t.

The Enpo no kihan woodcut image came from the Library of Congress.

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