The Story Behind Kanban

In an article from, ex-Toyota Group manager Chihiro Nakao relates his experience with Taiichi Ohno, who originated Toyota’s Lean Production in collaboration with Shigeo Shingo. Here’s the punchline:

As Mr. Taiichi Ohno drove deeper and deeper in the effort to achieve Just in Time ideals among the companies of the Toyota Group, […] the struggle was to keep people from [ordering] too much too

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Emphasizing the Positive

In 1982, University of Wisconsin researchers who were conducting a study of the adult-learning process videotaped two bowling teams during several games. The members of each team then studied their efforts on video to improve their skills. But the two videos had been edited differently. One team received a video showing only its mistakes; the other team’s video, by contrast, showed only the good performances. … [ Read more ]

You never really know someone until you see the choices she makes.

Like many photographers before him, Richard Zaltman was visiting remote areas of the world to capture images of people living lives far removed from those in the United States.

Here’s what made his experience different.

One morning, while walking through an isolated village in Bhutan, he suddenly got the idea of turning his camera over to the locals to see what they would consider significant enough to … [ Read more ]

Great Value in Disaster

In 1914 Thomas Edison’s factory in West Orange, New Jersey, was virtually destroyed by fire. Although the damage exceeded $2 million, the buildings were insured for only $238,000 because they were made of concrete and were thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s life work went up in smoke and flames that December night. At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24-year-old son, Charles, searched … [ Read more ]

W.L. Gore’s vision of “Freedom”

At W.L. Gore, with its vision of “Freedom,” the decision-rights of associates (as all members of the organization are called) are determined by the “water-line” principle. Employees envision their enterprise as a ship on which they all sail together. If someone occasionally bores an accidental hole above the ship’s waterline, it’s not calamitous; after all, innovative organizations must make allowances for some mistakes. A hole … [ Read more ]

People Live Up or Down to a Leader’s Expectations

“Tell me about the people at the organization you just left,” said the senior manager who was screening candidates to fill a key leadership role. “They were uneducated and lazy,” the candidate responded. “You always had to keep an eye on them because they were constantly trying to goof off or rip off the company. They were lousy communicators, resisted change, and only cared about … [ Read more ]

Stop looking under the light for innovation

There’s an old story about a man searching for his lost keys under the light on a dark night, even though they were last seen elsewhere. When a passerby asks why he continues to search in the wrong spot, the man replies, “Because the light’s better over here.” Too often, companies search within their own sphere of knowledge rather than seeking solutions wherever they may … [ Read more ]

The “Sneaker Game”

The date was December 9, 1934. The New York Giants were playing the Chicago Bears for the championship of the National Football League. The two teams were thought to be evenly matched, but there was a special factor that day that changed the dynamics of the game: heavy rains and cold temperatures had turned the field at New York’s Polo Grounds stadium into a virtual … [ Read more ]

The Moth

A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth. He took it home so that he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon. On that day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the moth for several hours as the moth struggled to force the body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if … [ Read more ]