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ikigai

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Ikigai is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.

The word derives from iki, meaning life and kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations. In business, the incorporation of the elements of ikigai to an employee's position is thought to yield the highest levels of employee engagement and productivity while also fostering job satisfaction and loyalty to the organization.

In his book Taking Flight, Anthony de Mello wrote about finding ikigai through examining your responses to four questions:

What do you love?

What are you good at?

What can you be paid for?

What does the world need?

According to de Mello, finding where those components interlap yields ikigai. (Definition continues below the diagram.)

  Ikigai-EN-optimized-PNG

Such processes of inquiry may be applied by an entrepreneur to determine the kind of startup that will be most satisfying for them. In the workplace, ikigai may seem like an unrealistic ideal. However, those questions can be adopted to guide employee management. It's entirely practical, for example, to ensure that employees are in the positions in an organization for which they are best suited. Likewise, it's a good practice to find out what employees truly care about and discover ways that they can make meaningful contributions.

This was last updated in April 2016

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