Kintsukuroi & How Groups Can Celebrate Failure

There’s an ancient Japanese philosophy that, I think, is particularly pertinent for many groups that are experiencing growing pains.

You know, those groups that don’t like to make mistakes or worse are hell-bent on “going for the perfect try.” Instead, they prefer to plan to the nth degree to avoid any embarrassing glitches along the way, sometimes never even making an attempt.

This philosophy is called kintsukuroi. It’s the process of restoring broken pottery using paste mixed with gold, silver or platinum. This means that instead of ugly cracks in the bowl, all you see are veins of gold or silver that transform the object into a piece of art.

The guiding principle behind kintsukuroi is that breakage and repairs are a part of the object’s history. They should be recognised and valued, not rejected. Treasured, not thrown away. Celebrated, not spurned.

In some ways, all of our groups’ growing pains could be framed with this philosophy in mind. In life, not to mention the life of a group, cracks are inevitable. The idea that they would ever disappear or that we should hide them from view is the wrong way to think about them.

While we may nod our heads in agreement and think that this is a valuable idea, it’s another thing for our groups to buy into it.

This is where you, dear educator and group facilitator, come in.


A Key Responsibility


I truly believe that we are one of the most critical ingredients that can influence the learning space we create for our students/staff/clients. Setbacks and bouncebacks are all a part of the journey, and with our help and a generous sprinkling of kintsukuroi, we can assist our groups in jamming a little gold into the cracks of their armour.

For example, I will sometimes invite groups to reflect on the relationship between the shades of light and dark. Without one, you cannot have the other. The same is true for groups when they discover something about themselves that was hidden from view until they “failed” at something, eg speaking over one another.

Not until we acknowledge and celebrate the dark is it possible to see the light. So, without the opportunity to reflect on what went wrong, can a group choose to embrace a new way of communicating with one another.

What do you think?

How do you invite your groups not to get fixated on their failures and celebrate them as a thing of beauty? Share in the Comments below…


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