Radical Break

This is a central idea in lean thinking—known there as kaikaku. It means the shock—the large, and usually strongly-resisted break—that opens the way to an elaborate and dysfunctional complex system being transformed into the flexible elegance of lean thinking. This principle is the enabling condition for Lean Logic, but we should remember that it has its dangers: the radical break’s value lies in its rarity: the serial reforms of our time are, on the contrary, a pathology—the troubled responses of a culture that has lost its identity and wits, and is struggling with vicious pre-climacteric problems to which there are no solutions.

Lean thinking has no patent on the idea of the radical break. It is present in the principle of “breakage” in religion. And it is integral to the principle of “creative destruction”, which was present in Marxist thinking, but developed and popularised by Joseph Schumpeter in his Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942). In the years after the Second World War, intentional destruction did not seem to be a priority, but recently it has become more established as a principle of management. In particular, it has become part of the response to the downside of success which turns into large companies’ biggest problem: successful (and therefore large) companies are typically overtaken by small new companies which have the advantage of fresh thinking.R1

Creative destruction is generally discussed as a continuous process—“Schumpeter’s gale”—which, as he explains, is an . . .

. . . industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in; . . . it cannot be understood on the hypothesis that there is a perennial lull.R2

But for Lean Logic, the radical break is rarer, and darker, than that. And Lean Logic uses it also as an analogy, for times when there is a change of key—the opportunity to consider assumptions from a different point of view. The word that summarises this best is “ecstasy” (Greek: ec out + histánai place), and the community’s most salient expression of it is carnival: the opportunity to be ecstatic, to see things differently, to be enchanted; and then to recover its senses. A reminder that normal good behaviour is not a habit, but a matter of choice—for now.


Related entries:

Sunk Cost Fallacy, Incrementalism, Paradigm.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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