Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Over the last year, I was introduced to the Japanese art of kintsugi. Kintsugi is a process of repairing broken pottery through the use of, “a lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.” The point of kintsugi is not to disguise or hide the fractures in the pottery. Rather, the intent of the process is to highlight and celebrate the object and the history that created the cracks. The kintsugi repairs that are done to each individual piece of broken pottery create a piece of art that is entirely unique and precious. I believe this serves as a beautiful metaphor which can be applied to organizations, leadership, and personal life.
Building Beauty, and Meaning, out of Difficulty
From an organizational and leadership perspective, the past couple of years have been challenging. We are collectively living through a very singular time in history, and it has not always been an easy or quiet experience. In particular, organizations have needed to learn the importance of supporting their people and have been forced to learn how to survive under difficult circumstances. Organizations that had previously been successful operating under ideal conditions, have now been confronted with their cracks and fractures. How do organizations now move forward from this?
Google has a model which falls within the kintsugi aesthetic. Rather than disparage and hide failures, Google celebrates ideas that do not work out. For Google, the learning and growth of development come from trying something new and taking the risk to see it through despite sometimes failing along the way. Failure, from this perspective, is seen as something of value and something to be cherished. Rather than look to place blame on others, the team and organization can take these opportunities to develop into something better than they were before the challenge.
Individuals, also, have needed to weather this period of time each in our own way and through our own experiences. Along the way, we have each been chipped or cracked in the process. Some of us may even be having difficulty this holiday season finding things to be thankful for. However, it is helpful to remember that being thankful does not mean that everything needs to be perfect. Thankfulness, much like kintsugi pottery, challenges us to recognize the beauty that we have created out of our experiences and our lives. Learning to be thankful despite our metaphorical cracks is an art, and great art takes time to be fully realized.
This holiday season, try to be compassionate with yourself and empathetic towards others. Remember that we are all figuring this world out as we go. We are all in the process of creating a personal kintsugi masterpiece from our lives.