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Mindful : April 2018
Back in the day, engineers at Toyota invented a manu- facturing and teamwork methodolog y called kaizen, which is still popular today. It’s often translated as “continuous improvement,” which would lead you to believe that it would be just perfect for the self- improvement, optimization, and life-hacking move- ment currently sweeping the planet. There’s only one hitch, though. One of kaizen’s guiding principles is sufficiency, making do with what you’ve got, add- ing as little as possible, and using imagination to let simple solutions emerge. The optimization move- ment seems generally to be driven by the opposite notion: insufficiency. You are never enough. There is never enough. There’s something wrong with you, and you’ve got to fix it. And when you’re done with that, find something else to fix. It’s not based on teamwork, either. It’s individualis- tic and even narcissistic at times: What the world needs now is a better me. Carl Cederström, a professor of organization studies at the Stockholm Business School, and André Spicer, an organizational behavior professor at the Cass Business School, City University of London, first teamed up to write their 2015 book, The Wellness Syndrome, which expanded on this very point. In the unending pursuit of the holy grail of “wellness,” it’s easy to detach from seeking solutions together with others and retreat into a moralistic, blaming culture where the greatest sin is to not take perfect care of yourself. They’re not sug- gesting we stop eating our vegetables and exercising and just let ourselves go. They are suggesting that we let go of the obses- sion and the fault-finding, though, and start focusing on community more. After all, the planet is crying out for g roup solutions. In Desperately Seek- ing Self-Improvement, which serves as a kind of sequel, the two profes- sors decide to research the phenomenon more deeply by making themselves the guinea pigs for all manner of optimization schemes, including electric-shocking to improve concentration, meditation-improving headbands, memor y- boosting regimens, plastic surgery, and master cleans- ing, to name just a few. The book is a satirical take on the same territory covered in their first book, but this book, which chronicles their improvement schemes in daily journals running in parallel, leads them to some very funny—and also very painful and even a little disturbing—places. Do not try this at home. DESPERATELY SEEKING SELF IMPROVEMENT A Year Inside the Optimization Movement Carl Cederström and André Spicer • OR Books 82 mindful April 2018 reviews