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Embracing Hansei: The Power of Reflection and Continuous Improvement

Admitting one's wrongdoings is amongst the most difficult things one could do. It requires a lot of hindsight and self-reflection in order to admit the mistakes made. The Japanese have a special word for it: Hansei (反省), which could translate to self-reflection. According to the etymology of the word, “Han” means to change, turn over, or turn upside down. “Sei” means to look back upon, review, and examine oneself.

Usually, the process of Hansei can be broken down in three steps:

  1. The identification of the problem.

  2. Asking self-reflective questions in order to pinpoint the roots of the problem at hand.

  3. Carefully constructing a plan of action to eliminate the said problem.

During this self-reflection process, the person at fault thinks back to his or her actions and tries thinking of ways that the mistakes won't be repeated. This process has to be consistent in order to be effective. Fun fact: Hansei is extremely linked with the concept of Kaizen, about which there is an article in our website.

Hansei is widely used in many famous businesses, such as Toyota. In Toyota, after the completion of important projects, usually meetings are held to identify the problems encountered during the project. In fact, the Toyota Production System guide stipulates that if no mistakes or potential areas of improvement were identified, that means that the analysis probably wasn't objective enough or that the person lacks modesty and humility.

It takes a lot of strength and courage to admit one's mistakes indeed, but it is the only way to learn and move forward, improving one's self and achieving greatness in the process.

By Maria Zoi Michailidou - Corporate Culture Correspondent at YNBC


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