The Art of Kintsugi

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold.

Instead of hiding the breaking points, Kintsugi highlights the story of the dish and transforms it into art.

Your business will never be flawless. You will always make mistakes. You will spend your entire career finding cracks in your processes, chips in your service, imperfections in your product.

The key is to fix these problems with improvements. The challenges drive innovation and upgrades.

I’m a product-focused CEO, which means I’m always hyperaware of any little cracks or flaws. Little problems that most don’t even notice can literally keep me up at night if I let them.

But I don’t stress about most of them, because I allow myself to make mistakes–once. We identify the mistakes, and fix them so that they don’t recur. Every time we fix a mistake, and stop it from happening again, we make the company better. We fill the cracks with gold.

Repeated mistakes are a cause for stress, but those are a sign that the crack was larger than we thought, and we need to fix a process–or sometimes move a person. Even in those rare situations, the next version of our business is always better.

The mistakes we make are just practice for larger opportunities later. This is the practice mindset that must be embraced by every craftsperson – potter, tinker or entrepreneur.

The larger the crack, the more expensive it is to fix. Filling the cracks with gold – actually taking the time to fix the problem, improve the process, or upgrade the staff–makes a better, more unique company in the end. Leaving the crack to spread makes it harder to patch.

Finally, most entrepreneurs try to hide their business failings, their mistakes, or the weak spots in their organization. But highlighting those mistakes to your staff (and sometimes even to the public!) builds trust, makes your training stick, and keeps your staff from repeating mistakes.

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

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