Kaizen and innovation both bring improvements in the company’s products and/or services, processes, and business models.


However, they have huge differences particularly in the way they are implemented and the outcomes they are bringing for the company.


Masaaki Imai, the creator of the Kaizen concept differentiates two major management components: maintenance and improvement.


Maintenance requires activities as maintaining current operations of the company as technological, managerial, and operational standards.


Then again, improvement can be broken down between Kaizen and innovation. It is reasonable because both concepts will lead to different improvements.


These are some of the biggest differences between these two concepts:


1. Kaizen’s small improvements vs innovation’s dramatic improvements.


Kaizen is focused on small improvements as a result of progressing efforts of the company’s staff members. On the other hand, innovation is focusing on large, dramatic improvements as a result of big changes in technology and equipment.




2. Kaizen’s small steps vs innovation’s big steps.


Kaizen as an improvement concept is implemented through small steps that will improve current work of some part of the company. It  won’t need complex tools, however in some cases simple observations to discover simple problems that will need a solution as an improvement effort. Innovation, on the other side is not something that can be implemented in one day with several simple steps. Innovation will require projects that sometimes will last few months to few years.


3. Kaizen’s consistent improvements vs innovation’s occasional improvements.


Due to potential outcomes to enemy small steps toward improvements, Kaizen is continuous endless approach. On the other side, innovation is occasional, something that will be implemented from time to time.




4. Kaizen’s incremental improvements vs innovation’s non-incremental improvements.


Another difference between these concepts is the results they bring to the company. Kaizen is focusing on small improvements with small incremental results. For instance, one Kaizen result for improvements of the delivery time can be 4 instead of 5 days. On the other side innovation is focusing to bring non-incremental, radical results. For the same example about delivery time, innovation will rebuild all processes incorporated into delivery in order to reduce delivery time on one day.


5. Kaizen’s little investments vs innovation’s large investments.


Kaizen in a lot of cases will not need big investments in new technology and processes. It will use the current resources to improve them. For instance, Kaizen concept will need improvements on the current technologies and processes. Opposite, innovation will need larger investments in time, money, and efforts. It will remove current processes and build totally new one, or will invest in totally new technology.


6. Kaizen’s improvements vs innovation’s rebuilding.


This distinction is firmly related with previous one. Kaizen is focusing on the improvements of current things in the company as products and services, processes, technology and business models. Innovation, on the other side will turn away these things and build totally new.


7. Kaizen’s great efforts vs innovation’s little efforts.


Keeping up continuous improvements in the company will require great efforts than implementing periodic innovation projects. This is another huge difference between Kaizen and innovation.