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Kaizen For Kids – The Natural Way To Learn

Kids fit into the Kaizen approach perfectly, if you think about it, we often talk about breaking things down into “baby steps” which is both a baby and kaizen way of doing things. As kids develop they increase their skills, little by little. They keep trying and pushing the boundaries a little further each time, kaizen for kids is the natural way to learn.

Sadly, what often happens when kids enter school is that the natural boundary-pushing, baby steps way of learning is quashed out of them. Instead, kids are expected to learn at the pace set by the teacher.

When I started researching more into the kaizen method used by Toyota, I discovered a number of points that strangely linked in with the Montessori philosophy, of which I am also a big fan. This was the penny drop moment and how Kaizen For Kids was born.

One of the big a-ha’s was the use of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In Montessori, intrinsic motivation is encouraged, we want to “follow the child” because if the child is interested in a subject and motivated to learn by him or herself, he or she will learn at a deeper level.

In a Montessori setting, the child is provided with the tools that they need to satisfy their hunger of knowledge on a topic of interest. Whereas extrinsic motivation, which usually comes in the form of reward charts and gold stars are discouraged.

Think about something that you loved as a child, for me, I was horse mad – yes, I was one of those girls! I memorised the British Horse Society handbook from cover to cover. Not because I needed to, not because I had to take exams on the information inside, but because I wanted to.

On the other hand, at the same time at school, we were learning about the world wars, important yes, boring very! I wasn’t in the slightest bit interested, along with most of the class, so the teacher would devise ways to try and motivate us to learn. Incentives linked to test score and homework assignments. Did it work, not really or only on a short-term basis.

How Does This Effect Us As Adults?

When looking at industry and intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, it was found that in American companies often offer big financial rewards for suggestions that make a marked improvement to the companies bottom line. This sounds great but research shows that workers are not that motivated and when they are, they are doing it with the prospect of making extra money, not looking out for the company. They are motivated to help only themselves.

When researchers looked at Toyota and the Japanese way, it was discovered that workers rarely receive a large financial reward, their motivation lies in helping to build a better company. Each member of the company is seen as an integral part of the big picture. More suggestions are put forward and managers are more accepting of the suggestions. The motivation to help the company increase profits is an internal not external one, Japanese workers are often very loyal to their company and even today the “job for life” ideology still exists.

I’m sure you have heard the term “Follow your passion” banded about, it all sounds rather woo-woo but there is some science behind it. When we follow our passion, we are, yes you guessed it, intrinsically motivated. The work doesn’t feel like work because you are doing something you love. On the other end of the scale are the people stuck in a cubical, shuffling paper, doing a job they have no passion for but they are motivated only by the paycheck and benefits the job provides.

As a parent, I know which way I want my child to go. To follow his internal instincts and do something he loves, the question is, how can us parents help our kids take that path?

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