Kintsukuroi – A Beautiful Fracturing

Kintsukuroi – A Beautiful Fracturing

Susannah Fox wrote an inspiring post about the quilt she has hanging on her wall in her new office as CTO of Health and Human Services. She talks about how that thumbed and warn fabric made by her ancestors and the act of weaving itself is a reminder of technology’s history and how from that realization, we see how often modern technology is subjected to myopic definitions and applications. To further illustrate her point she shows textile as technology and the motion that directs this early technology’s manifestation, the creative process where needle and thread lead to complicated symphonies of color and texture, as early programming. I love all of this.

I also love how she speaks to the power of the whole in a quilt. Each unique square designed to stand as an individual but to be emboldened, contextualized, and significant because of the whole.

Quilting reminded me of another art form: Kintsukuroi.

Kintsukuroi is a Japanese word that means to repair something fractured with gold or silver, and that in this reparation, the vessel is made more beautiful. In fact it is in its imperfection – and in its history of being damaged –  where it derives beauty.


An integral part of my work requires that I listen to and observe the stories swirling around our technologies and how they are changing the way we manage our health. When I listen I learn and am inspired by an overall sense that the work being done to improve how we invest in health and wellbeing is positive and riddled with immense opportunity.

But what is most significant is that all of this effort is the result of a fractured health care system’s request to be healed, made whole again, and beautified.


The fractured health care system has attracted a suite of people and organizations. Together they are driving the system into a better state than it once was. Today’s technology does and will continue to play pivotal roles in the future of health and wellness. But where the innovation (where the gold and silver melding) truly lies is in the human resources manipulating that technology in new ways. Health care’s cracks and fissures become surface area for intellectual play and development, resulting in redesigned professions, shared (and applied!) new knowledge, and collaboration taking a more central role over competition. Designing for need compliments advocacy for rare disease research and underserved communities. Not to mention newly invested value in interoperability and open access creating opportunities for a new line of makers, doers, and thinkers.

It’s the people – the minds, the tenacity, the nimble fingers –  making all this so beautiful. We have challenged and been challenged by the system. We made the system, we broke the system. And now we are fusing it together again. Gold and silver linings of innovation making it beautifully imperfect again.

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