Tiny bites of differentiation, feeding the business body and soul

A Japanese-influenced amuse-bouche: Hamachi, salmon roe, basil and basil flower

Cross-posted from Ellen (Elli) St. George Godfrey’s Ability, Success Growth blog, this is the “framing” post for this week’s #kaizenblog chat (where I’m joining regular host, Elli, as the guest moderator). This is not a typical PR Conversations post, but it does fall within the areas of “reflect a wide variety of voices” (i.e., including boundary spanning beyond traditional public relations) and “bring a sense of fun and excitement into debate” as per Our Vision for PR Conversations Redux.

#kaizenblog chat framing post

As kaizen is the Japanese concept that encompasses continuous and incremental organizational improvement, is a food analogy not apt?

The “continuous”—the big picture—is more like a multi-course meal or buffet (a building, complementary succession of courses or multiple offerings) feeding a business, whereas the “incremental” improvements—sometimes organizational differentiators—is more akin to an amuse-bouche (“mouth amuser”), hors d’œuvre, canapé or zensai (i.e., Japanese appetizers),  maybe not be essential but doing much for satisfying the soul. 

Do you subscribe to being a kaizen “foodie” in a major or a minor key? Meaning are all aspects or components of the preparation, deployment and consumption of a meal critical or do you take great delight in the smallest of morsels or in one or two unique ingredients in the organizational mix?

During the last week of December, a CTV Canada AM segment featured a guest chef who proposed hosting a New Year’s Eve party comprising just appetizers. While demonstrating the preparation of one hors d’oeuvre, he indicated, “The pickled onion in this appetizer is what makes all of the difference.” Immediately I “tasted” the pickled onion component (or at least how I imagined pickled onion would taste in this canapé). I wanted to taste this appetizer. I was mildly jealous of those who had or would.

What does this have to do with organizations? In Canada and elsewhere, several companies (usually with an HR focus), dedicate resources to producing annual lists and reports about the “best companies” or employers to work for, either nationally or by city. I devour these lists for insights when they are published.

Generally awarded placement on a list is a result of companies deciding to submit an application, with an aggregate of responses by employees about what makes their organization great. Although many of entries from “top” companies focus on the usual suspects (opportunities to advance, generous and tailored continuous learning budgets, organizational focus on CSR, mentoring programs, etc.), sometimes the featured “benefit” in the published report appears relatively small in the smörgåsbord of work life. The all-staff, complimentary “beer cart” that rolls around each Friday afternoon (at a PR agency) or stationary bikes being available in the work place (at an accounting association), are two differentiators that I can recall in recent lists. Great benefits, to be sure, but in the grand scheme of things relatively inconsequential—except for how “appetizing” they are in the opinion of that company’s employees.

Figuratively speaking, does your organization include innovative “pickled onion” components? These can be small benefits, unique accommodation or subtle internal or external reference points that separate an organization’s hors d’œuvre menu from that of its competitors. What event, department or individual was the genesis for suggesting and implementing this incremental improvement into the mix? How or why was it embraced? Are they permanent additions to the menu or limited-time offerings?

From a kaizen perspective, if an appetizer-sized benefit is something that differentiates a company (internally or externally), is there any value in observing and discussing what others are “serving up” impeccably or uniquely, if the end result can only be an imitation, watered down and lacking originality and creativity?

I think so.

To quote from Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth (written in 1998):

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

May a tasty little #kaizenblog chat be served on January 28thbon appétit!

#kaizenblog chat (potential) questions:

What are some small but tasty features, benefits or practices in a business that delight?

At what stage does an appetizing insertion have the most effect?

Are there some segments of publics (internal or external) that warrant a canapé offering not served up to all?

(From a public relations perspective) how and where can you spotlight these offerings into your organizational narrative?

*If you would like to discuss these questions and how something small can really make your business big, join us for #kaizenblog on Friday, January 28th at 12pm ET/5pm GMT/9am PT. If you have a Twitter account, join in following the #kaizenblog hashtag (even non-Twitter account people can lurk via this method). Consider using a third-party platform like Tweetchat or Tweetgrid to enchance the participation experience.

Amuse-bouche photo by Charle Haynes  (taken on August 3, 2007, in The Strip, Las Vegas, NV, USA), via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.



Please follow our blog:

3 Replies to “Tiny bites of differentiation, feeding the business body and soul

  1. There are only 7 notes in a music scale yet great artists insert a ‘pickled onion’ and lift the known to new dimensions. Of course, it’s only new if you’ve never ‘tasted’ it before. So perhaps the real kaizen is in the drive to innovate in small, bit-sized ways to constantly tempt the jaded palate/ear into listening/thinking on a new scale? Excellent post, Judy!

Comments are closed.