What Is An Ikigai Diagram? The Ikigai Diagram In A Nutshell

Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy combining the terms iki, meaning “life” or “alive”, and gai, meaning “worth” or “benefit”. Together, these terms describe life’s purpose or meaning. In many English-speaking countries, ikigai is defined as a reason to get out of bed in the morning. An ikigai diagram is a powerful framework based on Japanese philosophy for discovering one’s life purpose.

Understanding ikigai 

Ikigai is thought to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine.

Specifically, that physical health is connected to mental health and a sense of life purpose. 

Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano argued ikigai is a state of wellbeing derived from devotion to activities one finds fulfilling and enjoyable.

Kumano also compared ikigai to eudaimonia – an ancient Greek concept describing lasting happiness from a life well-lived.

The philosophy has also found use in modern cognitive-behavioral science, with the pursuit or mastery of enjoyable activities known to alleviate depression.

The four components of an ikigai diagram

The ikigai diagram was created by mentor and speaker Marc Winn who represented the philosophy as a Venn diagram. 

Many practitioners suggest Winn’s diagram is a westernized misinterpretation of the concept.

This may be true, but we can still learn some important lessons from it.

As with all Venn diagrams, the ikigai diagram uses overlapping circles to illustrate the relationships between two or more factors.

Let’s take a look at them now:

  1. Circle 1 – that which one loves, or the things we derive the most joy from experiencing. 
  2. Circle 2 – that which the world needs. This may be something a small community needs, or humanity in general. 
  3. Circle 3 – that which one can be paid for. Not all passions or joyful experiences can be monetized.
  4. Circle 4 – that which one is good at, including hobbies, skills, talents, or capabilities.

With that in mind, below is a look at how each circle overlaps:

  1. Where circle 1 and circle 2 overlap, an individual finds their mission.
  2. Where circle 2 and circle 3 overlap, an individual finds their vocation.
  3. Where circle 3 and circle 4 overlap, an individual finds their profession.
  4. Where circle 4 and circle 1 overlap, an individual finds their passion.
  5. Where mission, vocation, profession, and passion overlap in the center of the diagram, one finds their ikigai or life purpose. 

Some key points about ikigai and ikigai diagrams

Here are some things an individual should keep in mind when attempting to discover their life purpose.

Ikigai is not all work and money

Firstly, there is no requirement that ikigai be related to work or money. Many Japanese people pursue their ikigai for as long as their health allows, which may be related to family, a dream, or simply the spiritual belief that life is worth living. 

Removing work from the equation means the third circle should also be removed from the diagram.

Ikigai should never be overwhelming

Society places a lot of pressure on people in the West to find their singular life purpose. What’s more, their purpose must be ground-breaking, extraordinary, and unique. 

In the East, ikigai is more humble. Instead of a single, lofty goal, there is more of an emphasis on process, immersion, mastery, and sharing this excellence with others.

Ikigai can change or evolve over time

Following on from the previous point, one’s life purpose can be tweaked or changed at any point in life. There is no need to blindly adhere to something no longer working.

The Japanese consider ikigai as something that evolves as people evolve. Many may have several life purposes for this very reason and never let the prospect of change hinder the enjoyment of life.

Ikigai examples

Let’s take a look at two ikigai examples to explain how someone may arrive at their life purpose. 

Peter the entrepreneur

In the first example, entrepreneur Peter sits down to fill out the four circles.

That which one loves

Peter loves to empower others to live the life they desire and derives great satisfaction from seeing those around him realize their potential.

These are not empty words to Peter. He relishes the opportunity to help entrepreneurs tackle problems head-on, conquer their fears, and achieve their wildest dreams.

That which the world needs

Peter is confident that his consultancy company will benefit the world because it empowers leaders in start-ups to see their ideas come to fruition.

These companies are often in new or critical industries that address some of life’s most wicked problems such as food security and climate change. 

That which one is good at

Peter is an entrepreneur himself and understands the trials and tribulations of getting a new company off the ground. With years of experience, Peter has an attitude characterized by persistence and humor which are both critical in early-stage businesses.

Unlike others who may hoard information or best practices, Peter is willing to share his expertise and professional network with others to help them succeed.

That which one can be paid for

Peter’s passion for helping other entrepreneurs realize their vision is happily something he can be paid for. His consultancy business affords him a more than respectable income, and in the future, he plans to put his capital and expertise to work in a seed or angel investor capacity.

Mary the nature lover

In the second example, we have Mary the nature lover. Mary adds information to the four circles so that she can find a fulfilling and rewarding new career based on her unique skillset. 

That which one loves

It will be no surprise that Mary loves the natural environment – whether that be fauna, flora, fungi, or otherwise.

Mary is also a passionate volunteer at a local environmental non-profit that seeks to restore and protect coastal ecosystems.

She enjoys leading school groups and other interested parties into the dune system and educating them on its importance and significance.

That which the world needs

Mary understands that the world needs people who are not only interested in protecting its natural resources but can motivate others to do the same.

That which one is good at

In a past life, Mary was a successful project manager in an unrelated industry and thus is skilled in communication, decision-making, leadership, and team-building.

Mary is also able to work well under pressure and is a superb negotiator. 

That which one can be paid for

Mary considers that she could become a botanist or ecologist with her excellent knowledge of local species and project management skills – but this would still require that she complete a multi-year Bachelor’s degree in environmental science.

To pivot into a new career more quickly, she decides that a project management position within an environmental charity or non-profit is a better choice.

Key takeaways:

  • An ikigai diagram is a powerful framework for discovering one’s life purpose by considering Japanese philosophy.
  • An ikigai diagram is a western misinterpretation of the original Japanese concept. Nevertheless, it remains an important way to help clarify life purpose. This purpose can be found at the intersection of four circles: what one loves, what the world needs, what one can be paid for, and what one is good at.
  • There is no requirement for an ikigai diagram to produce a life purpose dominated by work or money. Practitioners who want to develop an ikigai based on family or spirituality can simply omit the third circle from the diagram.

Key Highlights:

  • Ikigai Defined: Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy that combines the terms “iki” (meaning “life” or “alive”) and “gai” (meaning “worth” or “benefit”). Together, they represent life’s purpose or meaning. In English-speaking countries, ikigai is often described as a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Origins and Evolution: Ikigai is rooted in traditional Japanese medicine, linking physical health with mental well-being and a sense of purpose. Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano connected ikigai with fulfilling and enjoyable activities, akin to the concept of eudaimonia in ancient Greek philosophy.
  • Ikigai Diagram: The ikigai diagram, represented as a Venn diagram, was created by Marc Winn. It highlights the intersection of four circles:
    • Circle 1: What one loves or derives joy from.
    • Circle 2: What the world needs, whether on a small community or global scale.
    • Circle 3: What one can be paid for, considering monetization of passions.
    • Circle 4: What one is good at, including skills, talents, and capabilities.
  • Components of the Diagram:
    • Overlap of Circle 1 and Circle 2: Mission or purpose.
    • Overlap of Circle 2 and Circle 3: Vocation.
    • Overlap of Circle 3 and Circle 4: Profession.
    • Overlap of Circle 4 and Circle 1: Passion.
    • Central Overlap of All Circles: Ikigai or life purpose.
  • Key Points About Ikigai and Diagram:
    • Not Solely About Work and Money: Ikigai doesn’t require a focus on work or money; it can be related to family, dreams, or spiritual beliefs.
    • Avoiding Overwhelming Pressure: Eastern interpretation of ikigai is humble and emphasizes process, immersion, mastery, and sharing excellence, rather than pursuing groundbreaking goals.
    • Evolution Over Time: Life purposes can evolve and change, and individuals shouldn’t hesitate to modify their paths.
  • Examples of Ikigai:
    • Peter the Entrepreneur: Peter’s passion for empowering others aligns with the world’s need for innovative solutions, and he can monetize his expertise, resulting in his life purpose.
    • Mary the Nature Lover: Mary’s love for the environment, skills in project management, and desire to contribute to the world’s needs direct her toward a career in environmental conservation.
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Ikigai is a concept representing life’s purpose and meaning.
    • The ikigai diagram is a westernized interpretation but provides a framework to understand one’s life purpose.
    • Ikigai need not be work-centric; it can encompass family, spirituality, and more.
    • Life purposes can change, and the pursuit is more about the journey and shared excellence.

Connected Agile & Lean Frameworks


AIOps is the application of artificial intelligence to IT operations. It has become particularly useful for modern IT management in hybridized, distributed, and dynamic environments. AIOps has become a key operational component of modern digital-based organizations, built around software and algorithms.


AgileSHIFT is a framework that prepares individuals for transformational change by creating a culture of agility.

Agile Methodology

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Agile Program Management

Agile Program Management is a means of managing, planning, and coordinating interrelated work in such a way that value delivery is emphasized for all key stakeholders. Agile Program Management (AgilePgM) is a disciplined yet flexible agile approach to managing transformational change within an organization.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.

Agile Modeling

Agile Modeling (AM) is a methodology for modeling and documenting software-based systems. Agile Modeling is critical to the rapid and continuous delivery of software. It is a collection of values, principles, and practices that guide effective, lightweight software modeling.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Andon System

The andon system alerts managerial, maintenance, or other staff of a production process problem. The alert itself can be activated manually with a button or pull cord, but it can also be activated automatically by production equipment. Most Andon boards utilize three colored lights similar to a traffic signal: green (no errors), yellow or amber (problem identified, or quality check needed), and red (production stopped due to unidentified issue).

Bimodal Portfolio Management

Bimodal Portfolio Management (BimodalPfM) helps an organization manage both agile and traditional portfolios concurrently. Bimodal Portfolio Management – sometimes referred to as bimodal development – was coined by research and advisory company Gartner. The firm argued that many agile organizations still needed to run some aspects of their operations using traditional delivery models.

Business Innovation Matrix

Business innovation is about creating new opportunities for an organization to reinvent its core offerings, revenue streams, and enhance the value proposition for existing or new customers, thus renewing its whole business model. Business innovation springs by understanding the structure of the market, thus adapting or anticipating those changes.

Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Constructive Disruption

A consumer brand company like Procter & Gamble (P&G) defines “Constructive Disruption” as: a willingness to change, adapt, and create new trends and technologies that will shape our industry for the future. According to P&G, it moves around four pillars: lean innovation, brand building, supply chain, and digitalization & data analytics.

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Design Sprint

A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.


DevOps refers to a series of practices performed to perform automated software development processes. It is a conjugation of the term “development” and “operations” to emphasize how functions integrate across IT teams. DevOps strategies promote seamless building, testing, and deployment of products. It aims to bridge a gap between development and operations teams to streamline the development altogether.

Dual Track Agile

Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

eXtreme Programming

eXtreme Programming was developed in the late 1990s by Ken Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Ward Cunningham. During this time, the trio was working on the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation System (C3) to help manage the company payroll system. eXtreme Programming (XP) is a software development methodology. It is designed to improve software quality and the ability of software to adapt to changing customer needs.

Feature-Driven Development

Feature-Driven Development is a pragmatic software process that is client and architecture-centric. Feature-Driven Development (FDD) is an agile software development model that organizes workflow according to which features need to be developed next.

Gemba Walk

A Gemba Walk is a fundamental component of lean management. It describes the personal observation of work to learn more about it. Gemba is a Japanese word that loosely translates as “the real place”, or in business, “the place where value is created”. The Gemba Walk as a concept was created by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System of lean manufacturing. Ohno wanted to encourage management executives to leave their offices and see where the real work happened. This, he hoped, would build relationships between employees with vastly different skillsets and build trust.

GIST Planning

GIST Planning is a relatively easy and lightweight agile approach to product planning that favors autonomous working. GIST Planning is a lean and agile methodology that was created by former Google product manager Itamar Gilad. GIST Planning seeks to address this situation by creating lightweight plans that are responsive and adaptable to change. GIST Planning also improves team velocity, autonomy, and alignment by reducing the pervasive influence of management. It consists of four blocks: goals, ideas, step-projects, and tasks.

ICE Scoring

The ICE Scoring Model is an agile methodology that prioritizes features using data according to three components: impact, confidence, and ease of implementation. The ICE Scoring Model was initially created by author and growth expert Sean Ellis to help companies expand. Today, the model is broadly used to prioritize projects, features, initiatives, and rollouts. It is ideally suited for early-stage product development where there is a continuous flow of ideas and momentum must be maintained.

Innovation Funnel

An innovation funnel is a tool or process ensuring only the best ideas are executed. In a metaphorical sense, the funnel screens innovative ideas for viability so that only the best products, processes, or business models are launched to the market. An innovation funnel provides a framework for the screening and testing of innovative ideas for viability.

Innovation Matrix

According to how well defined is the problem and how well defined the domain, we have four main types of innovations: basic research (problem and domain or not well defined); breakthrough innovation (domain is not well defined, the problem is well defined); sustaining innovation (both problem and domain are well defined); and disruptive innovation (domain is well defined, the problem is not well defined).

Innovation Theory

The innovation loop is a methodology/framework derived from the Bell Labs, which produced innovation at scale throughout the 20th century. They learned how to leverage a hybrid innovation management model based on science, invention, engineering, and manufacturing at scale. By leveraging individual genius, creativity, and small/large groups.

Lean vs. Agile

The Agile methodology has been primarily thought of for software development (and other business disciplines have also adopted it). Lean thinking is a process improvement technique where teams prioritize the value streams to improve it continuously. Both methodologies look at the customer as the key driver to improvement and waste reduction. Both methodologies look at improvement as something continuous.

Lean Startup

A startup company is a high-tech business that tries to build a scalable business model in tech-driven industries. A startup company usually follows a lean methodology, where continuous innovation, driven by built-in viral loops is the rule. Thus, driving growth and building network effects as a consequence of this strategy.

Minimum Viable Product

As pointed out by Eric Ries, a minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort through a cycle of build, measure, learn; that is the foundation of the lean startup methodology.

Leaner MVP

A leaner MVP is the evolution of the MPV approach. Where the market risk is validated before anything else


Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.


Jidoka was first used in 1896 by Sakichi Toyoda, who invented a textile loom that would stop automatically when it encountered a defective thread. Jidoka is a Japanese term used in lean manufacturing. The term describes a scenario where machines cease operating without human intervention when a problem or defect is discovered.

PDCA Cycle

The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle was first proposed by American physicist and engineer Walter A. Shewhart in the 1920s. The PDCA cycle is a continuous process and product improvement method and an essential component of the lean manufacturing philosophy.

Rational Unified Process

Rational unified process (RUP) is an agile software development methodology that breaks the project life cycle down into four distinct phases.

Rapid Application Development

RAD was first introduced by author and consultant James Martin in 1991. Martin recognized and then took advantage of the endless malleability of software in designing development models. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a methodology focusing on delivering rapidly through continuous feedback and frequent iterations.

Retrospective Analysis

Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management. Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle. These are the five stages of a retrospective analysis for effective Agile project management: set the stage, gather the data, generate insights, decide on the next steps, and close the retrospective.

Scaled Agile

Scaled Agile Lean Development (ScALeD) helps businesses discover a balanced approach to agile transition and scaling questions. The ScALed approach helps businesses successfully respond to change. Inspired by a combination of lean and agile values, ScALed is practitioner-based and can be completed through various agile frameworks and practices.


The SMED (single minute exchange of die) method is a lean production framework to reduce waste and increase production efficiency. The SMED method is a framework for reducing the time associated with completing an equipment changeover.

Spotify Model

The Spotify Model is an autonomous approach to scaling agile, focusing on culture communication, accountability, and quality. The Spotify model was first recognized in 2012 after Henrik Kniberg, and Anders Ivarsson released a white paper detailing how streaming company Spotify approached agility. Therefore, the Spotify model represents an evolution of agile.

Test-Driven Development

As the name suggests, TDD is a test-driven technique for delivering high-quality software rapidly and sustainably. It is an iterative approach based on the idea that a failing test should be written before any code for a feature or function is written. Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to software development that relies on very short development cycles.


Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.


Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.


Scrumban is a project management framework that is a hybrid of two popular agile methodologies: Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban is a popular approach to helping businesses focus on the right strategic tasks while simultaneously strengthening their processes.

Scrum Anti-Patterns

Scrum anti-patterns describe any attractive, easy-to-implement solution that ultimately makes a problem worse. Therefore, these are the practice not to follow to prevent issues from emerging. Some classic examples of scrum anti-patterns comprise absent product owners, pre-assigned tickets (making individuals work in isolation), and discounting retrospectives (where review meetings are not useful to really make improvements).

Scrum At Scale

Scrum at Scale (Scrum@Scale) is a framework that Scrum teams use to address complex problems and deliver high-value products. Scrum at Scale was created through a joint venture between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Inc. The joint venture was overseen by Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of Scrum and one of the principal authors of the Agile Manifesto.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating errors or defects in a product, service, or process. Six Sigma was developed by Motorola as a management approach based on quality fundamentals in the early 1980s. A decade later, it was popularized by General Electric who estimated that the methodology saved them $12 billion in the first five years of operation.

Stretch Objectives

Stretch objectives describe any task an agile team plans to complete without expressly committing to do so. Teams incorporate stretch objectives during a Sprint or Program Increment (PI) as part of Scaled Agile. They are used when the agile team is unsure of its capacity to attain an objective. Therefore, stretch objectives are instead outcomes that, while extremely desirable, are not the difference between the success or failure of each sprint.

Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an early form of lean manufacturing created by auto-manufacturer Toyota. Created by the Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1940s and 50s, the Toyota Production System seeks to manufacture vehicles ordered by customers most quickly and efficiently possible.

Total Quality Management

The Total Quality Management (TQM) framework is a technique based on the premise that employees continuously work on their ability to provide value to customers. Importantly, the word “total” means that all employees are involved in the process – regardless of whether they work in development, production, or fulfillment.


The waterfall model was first described by Herbert D. Benington in 1956 during a presentation about the software used in radar imaging during the Cold War. Since there were no knowledge-based, creative software development strategies at the time, the waterfall method became standard practice. The waterfall model is a linear and sequential project management framework. 

Read Also: Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

Read Next: Agile Methodology, Lean Methodology, Agile Project Management, Scrum, Kanban, Six Sigma.

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