If it Ain’t Broke, Break It?
One place I turn for information and inspiration in my professional world is LinkedIn. I find so much useful content and plenty of blog ideas there every week.
I’ve also “met” some great new colleagues there over the years, many of whom I’ve yet to actually meet in person, but most of whom I have met over Zoom.
Recently I saw a video by a local family business leader who, along with his daughter, shared some ways they were adapting to the reality of this pandemic-stricken world.
One of the take-away messages they shared was around the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, resulting in an A-Ha moment for me, and the impetus for this post.
There It Is, Again
The Kintsugi angle was already on my radar, but due to sloppy note-taking on my part, I don’t recall where I was first exposed to it.
When I saw that video, I quickly made a note this time, to properly contextualize my blog about it. I also took it as a sign that this post was now due to be created.
Regular readers may recall that I’ve been inspired by something from Japan before, having shared Ikigai: A “Four-Circle Model” of Human Capital in 2019.
So what is Kintsugi?
You’ve likely seen some version of it before without realizing that it’s a style of art, from Japan, where a pot, dish, or bowl is broken into pieces and then reassembled.
The art is in the way it’s put back together, with glue-like substances, enhanced with gold or some other “fancy” elements.
The result is a reassembled piece, which is now more beautiful and special than the original.
And the Family Business Angle Is…?
Of course there’s also a resilience angle here, which is quite topical thanks to the lingering pandemic.
Almost everyone has faced, or continues to face, some sort of breakdown, and it’s important to normalize that.
Additionally, we need to realize that after a challenge, it is possible to emerge stronger and more beautiful than before.
There are also some other business family angles I’ve thought of that could fit into the Kintsugi metaphor.
Some may seem to be a stretch, and that’s OK too; I’ll just use a bit more of that “golden glue” on those to make them work.
Family Members Aren’t All Equal
We all know that family members are not equal, as each person has their own strengths and desires, making each one’s contributions unique.
There are often some who experience challenges in life, which may be completely involuntary or for which they are mostly to blame.
Regardless, they remain members of the family, even if they might be slightly “broken”.
One of the strengths of some business families is that they have an uncanny ability to help those “broken” family members, and even put them back together and make them stronger, finding ways to make them contributing members of the group.
Family Narrative with All the Warts
Another place where I think Kintsugi might apply is in the family narrative.
Story-telling seems to be all the rage now, and creating and sharing the “family narrative” has become a valuable exercise for many families.
It’s crucial to share the failures and recoveries, not just the successes, when sharing the story of the family’s path to their current status.
For more on this, please have a listen to this podcast I recently hosted. The Family Business Myth and the Hero’s Journey
The FamBiz Wind-Down or Wind-Up
I’ve got one more possible business family Kintsugi metaphor to share, and it involves situations where the family business that created the wealth is no longer part of the picture.
When a family business is sold, and there’s a “liquidity event”, the family can sometimes struggle to define reasons for them to stay together to continue to manage their wealth and assets.
I’m picturing the business as the pot or vase that was broken, and the family’s work to create ways and reasons to stay together as the gluing things back together in a stronger and more beautiful way.
Kintsugi as a Team Sport?
I used the word “create” above, and perhaps I should have used “co-create” instead.
Business family continuity is truly a team sport, and it must involve a number of people if there is any chance of it “sticking” on an intergenerational basis.
The more people involved in piecing it together, the better it will work, and look. It truly is an art.