Kaizen (改善?)Japanese for “improvement” or “change for the best”, refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, business management or any process. It has been applied in healthcare,[1]psychotherapy,[2] life-coaching, government, banking, and other industries. When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions, and involves all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain.[3] By improving standardized activities and processes, kaizen aims to eliminate waste (seelean manufacturing). Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese businesses after the Second World War, influenced in part by American business and quality management teachers who visited the country. It has since spread throughout the world[4] and is now being implemented in environments outside of business and productivity.

Hierarchy of needs

Beginnings: Psychology without a soul

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the dominant throries in psychology had been the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud and thebehaviourism of J. B. Watson and B. F. Skinner.

Both had tended to portray human beings as faulty machines.

  • In Freud’s view, human beings were almost entirely driven by primitive urges like sex and aggression. These ever-present impulses must be managed if we are to live together in civilized society. This leaves many people hopelessly conflicted at an unconscious level. A miserable, unfulfilled existence is unavoidable.
  • In the behaviourists’ view, human beings are like oversized lab rats —  programmed or conditioned to behave the way they do by factors outside of their control. They have no mind, no will of their own. Their feelings are not real and therefore do not matter. People are simply programmable machines who can be manipulated into doing anything.

In their different ways, psychoanalysis and behaviourism had dehumanized our understanding of ourselves and what it means to be human. In the middle of the century which had brought us Nazism, Communism, mechanized warfare, systematic genocide and Mutually Assured Destruction, psychology was unintentionally providing a scientific “justification” for such horrors.

These rather bleak, soul-less visions of human nature constituted the first two “waves” of psychology as a science.

Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.[2] Maslow was a psychology professor at Brandeis UniversityBrooklyn CollegeNew School for Social Research andColumbia University. He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people, as opposed to treating them as a “bag of symptoms.”[3]


Maslow described human needs as ordered in a prepotent hierarchy—a pressing need would need to be mostly satisfied before someone would give their attention to the next highest need. None of his published works included a visual representation of the hierarchy. The pyramidal diagram illustrating the Maslow needs hierarchy may have been created by a psychology textbook publisher as an illustrative device. This now iconic pyramid frequently depicts the spectrum of human needs, both physical and psychological, as accompaniment to articles describing Maslow’s needs theory and may give the impression that the Hierarchy of Needs is a fixed and rigid sequence of progression. Yet, starting with the first publication of his theory in 1943, Maslow described human needs as being relatively fluid—with many needs being present in a person simultaneously.[38]

The hierarchy of human needs model suggests that human needs will only be fulfilled one level at a time.[39]

According to Maslow’s theory, when a human being ascends the levels of the hierarchy having fulfilled the needs in the hierarchy, one may eventually achieve self-actualization. Late in life, Maslow came to conclude that self-actualization was not an automatic outcome of satisfying the other human needs[40][41]

Human needs as identified by Maslow:

  • At the bottom of the hierarchy are the “Basic needs or Physiological needs” of a human being: food, water, sleep and sex.
  • The next level is “Safety Needs: Security, Order, and Stability”. These two steps are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more.
  • The third level of need is “Love and Belonging”, which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others, such as with family and friends.
  • The fourth level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished. This is the “Esteem” level, the need to be competent and recognized, such as through status and level of success.
  • Then there is the “Cognitive” level, where individuals intellectually stimulate themselves and explore.
  • After that is the “Aesthetic” level, which is the need for harmony, order and beauty.[42]
  • At the top of the pyramid, “Need for Self-actualization” occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they are engaged in achieving their full potential.[43] Once a person has reached the self-actualization state they focus on themselves and try to build their own image. They may look at this in terms of feelings such as self-confidence or by accomplishing a set goal.[4]

The first four levels are known as Deficit needs or D-needs. This means that if you do not have enough of one of those four needs, you will have the feeling that you need to get it. But when you do get them, then you feel content. These needs alone are not motivating.[4]

Maslow wrote that there are certain conditions that must be fulfilled in order for the basic needs to be satisfied. For example, freedom of speech, freedom to express oneself, and freedom to seek new information[44] are a few of the prerequisites. Any blockages of these freedoms could prevent the satisfaction of the basic needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been subject to internet memes over the past few years. Specifically looking at the recent integration of technology in our lives.

Criticisms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

While some research showed some support for Maslow’s theories, most research has not been able to substantiate the idea of a needs hierarchy. Wahba and Bridwell reported that there was little evidence for Maslow’s ranking of these needs and even less evidence that these needs are in a hierarchical order.

Other criticisms of Maslow’s theory note that his definition of self-actualization is difficult to test scientifically. His research on self-actualization was also based on a very limited sample of individuals, including people he knew as well as biographies of famous individuals that Maslow believed to be self-actualized, such as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Regardless of these criticisms, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs represents part of an important shift in psychology. Rather than focusing on abnormal behavior and development, Maslow’s humanistic psychology was focused on the development of healthy individuals.

While there was relatively little research supporting the theory, hierarchy of needs is well-known and popular both in and out of psychology. In a study published in 2011, researchers from the University of Illinois set out to put the hierarchy to the test. What they discovered is that while fulfillment of the needs was strongly correlated with happiness, people from cultures all over the reported that self-actualization and social needs were important even when many of the most basic needs were unfulfilled.

An Introduction to the TOC Thinking Processes

It’s Not Luck (1994) is a business novel and a sequel to The Goal. The plot continues to follow the advancement of the main character, Alex Rogo, through the corporate ranks of large manufacturer, UniCo.

Author Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt continues to teach the reader his thinking processes through the eyes of Alex Rogo as he learns from his mentor, Jonah. In this book, the primary subjects are the resolution of conflict through the evaporating clouds method and the identification of root causes through the effect-cause-effect method.

In this book the main character, Alex, conducts the reader through the essence of some TOC tools and applications, like the Thinking Processes and the TOC solutions for Marketing, Distribution and how to compose the Strategy of a company.


by Dongxiao Qiu
for the Ross Clouston Scholarship, 2001

Continue reading “An Introduction to the TOC Thinking Processes”

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats is a book by Edward de Bono which describes a tool for group discussion and individual thinking involving six colored hats. “Six Thinking Hats” and the associated idea parallel thinking provide a means for groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way, and in doing so to think together more effectively.[2]

In 2005, the tool found some use in the United Kingdom innovation sector, where it was offered by some facilitation companies and had been trialled within the United Kingdom’s civil service.

The premise of the method is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be deliberately challenged, and hence planned for use in a structured way allowing one to develop tactics for thinking about particular issues. De Bono identifies six distinct directions in which the brain can be challenged. In each of these directions the brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of issues being considered (e.g. gut instinct, pessimistic judgement, neutral facts). None of these directions are completely natural ways of thinking, but rather how some of us already represent the results of our thinking. Since the hats do not represent natural modes of thinking, each hat must be used for a limited time only. Also, many will feel that using the hats is unnatural, uncomfortable or even counter productive and against their better judgement. A compelling example presented is sensitivity to “mismatch” stimuli. This is presented as a valuable survival instinct, because, in the natural world: the thing that is out of the ordinary may well be dangerous. This mode is identified as the root of negative judgement and critical thinking. Six distinct directions are identified and assigned a color. The six directions are:

  • Managing (Blue) – what is the subject? what are we thinking about? what is the goal?
  • Information (White) – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions (Red) – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Discernment (Black) – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative
  • Optimistic response (Yellow) – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creativity (Green) – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes

Coloured hats are used as metaphors for each direction. Switching to a direction is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat, either literally or metaphorically. These metaphors allow for a more complete and elaborate segregation of the thinking directions. The six thinking hats indicate problems and solutions about an idea the thinker may come up with.

Yves Morieux

Published on Jan 23, 2014

Why do people feel so miserable and disengaged at work? Because today’s businesses are increasingly and dizzyingly complex — and traditional pillars of management are obsolete, says Yves Morieux. So, he says, it falls to individual employees to navigate the rabbit’s warren of interdependencies. In this energetic talk, Morieux offers six rules for “smart simplicity.” (Rule One: Understand what your colleagues actually do.)

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