Breakthrough Results: Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement

By Chris Ihrig

Everything moves faster in today’s world. There is no time to rest on our laurels and enjoy the success we achieved yesterday. Today is a new day with new challenges. Just the idea of continuous improvement can feel exhausting. Competing to get to number one or to stay at the top is stressful.

There is another way to look at continuous improvement that is exhilarating instead of exhausting—a way that energizes people instead of draining them.

Imagine running a race, feeling the breeze created by your movement against your heated skin. While you run, you’re hyper-focused on where the other runners are, sometimes disrupting your stride to look behind you to see if anyone is gaining on you. Are you enjoying yourself? Are you doing your personal best?

Now, imagine running the same 

race while tuned inward, in harmony with yourself, believing that you will do your best and that, because of your training and commitment to continuously improving yourself, your best today is better than your best yesterday. You are unconcerned about how the other racers are doing because your goal is to do your personal best.

If your personal best isn’t enough to beat them, it won’t be better because of your focus on beating them. It is more likely it would be worse because your outward focus increases stress which diminishes your overall performance. If your personal best is enough to beat them soundly, you are more likely to reach new heights because you’re not doing just enough to be better than someone else—you’re striving to achieve your personal best.

When we focus on becoming our best and recognize that our best tomorrow can be better than our best today, continuous improvement is fun.

This concept easily translates to teams and corporate cultures. When Apple leaped ahead, they weren’t focused on beating the competition. They were focused on a transformational goal that inspired everyone to do their personal best, together. Does your culture to support each member of your team achieving their personal best? What could your organization do if it changed their perspective about continuous improvement?