Improvement is the process of a thing moving from one state to a state considered to be better, usually through some action intended to bring about that better state. The concept of improvement is important to governments and businesses, as well as to individuals.
History of the concept
The term "improvement" historically referred to land improvement, the process of making wild land more suitable for human uses, particularly the cultivation of crops. This limited agricultural use of the term changed in the 17th century, when "its metaphoric range was extended to include a host of social and political reforms aimed at growth, development, or perfection". In short order, the term "improvement" became "nothing less than shorthand for the civilizing process", and thereafter "played an important role in eighteenth- century European debates over the foundations of social order". Friedrich Nietzsche criticized this concept of "improvement" in his notes published in The Will to Power, asserting that it created a false and self-serving sense of human superiority over nature, and that the "civilizing" of man was actually a "softening".
In the 20th century, the concept of improvement expanded even further. Businesses developed philosophies of having a continual improvement process, wherein all activities of the business are constantly examined to weed out inefficiencies and better ways of carrying out tasks. At the same time, the concept of individual self-improvement blossomed, leading to "tremendous growth in self-help publishing [and] self-improvement culture", wherein people assessed their lives in much the same way. Home improvement, the process or result of improving the efficiency, livability, or market value of a personal dwelling, has also become a substantial industry.
Many theories and practices exist with respect to improvement in business. For example, business process improvement is a systematic approach to help an organization optimize its underlying processes to achieve more efficient results. One such approach is focused improvement, the ensemble of activities aimed at elevating the performance of any system, especially a business system, by working on eliminating its constraints one by one while not working on non-constraints. Performance improvement focuses on measuring the output of a particular business process or procedure, then modifying the process or procedure to increase the output, increase efficiency, or increase the effectiveness of the process or procedure. Quality improvement is one of the four aspects of the concept of quality management.
Governments often use language proposing improvement of processes or areas. In some places a business improvement district or tourism improvement district may be incorporated into urban zoning, with the enactment of laws intended to benefit businesses that are established in the area. An improvement trust, a type of legal trust created for the improvement of something, may be settled for the benefit of a municipal area.
- In government
- Improvement commissioners, a form of government in 18th-century Britain.
- Improvement and Development Agency, a British governmental agency established in 1998.
- Improvement districts of Alberta, a type of rural municipality.
- Improvement Era, magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published from 1897–1970.
- Natural vision improvement, a regimen developed by William Horatio Bates for improving human vision.
- Network improvement, actions that can be taken to improve computer or digital networks.
- Preemphasis improvement, the improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio of the high-frequency portion of the baseband in in FM broadcasting.
- In taxonomy, improvement is used as a synonym for emendation, a scientific change to the name of a living organism made to remove spelling and style errors.
- Alan Craig Houston, Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement (2008), p. 12.
- See also Andrew D. Lambert, The Gates of Hell: Sir John Franklin's Tragic Quest for the North West Passage (2014), p. 136: "The Enlightenment concept of improvement as applied to the land was seen as a civilising mission".
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (2011 ed.), p. 91, 212.
- Micki McGee. Self-Help, Inc.: Makeover culture in American Life (Oxford 2005) p. 12.
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