How can wabi sabi help us navigate the ‘new’ now?

How can the idea of wabi sabi help us navigate the 'new' now?

Written by Vicky Emery

June 11, 2020


How can the idea of ‘wabi sabi’ help navigate the new ‘now’?


Over the last few weeks of isolation, I have found myself in ‘make and bake’ mode as a good balance of work at home and living at home.

Today, I wanted to make an old favourite – lemon cake. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I have made this and enjoyed it with family and friends. You will have your own version of what that is for you so I am sure you get the comfort that comes from ‘old favourites’.

Like swimming for me, cooking is a great way of solving problems and taking a breath when I am stuck on something. So, on auto pilot, I went about making the lemon cake. About to put it in the oven, I realised I had messed up the recipe and had to go into ‘fix’ mode.

I did what you do when the game changes around you. I went to the pantry and fridge to see what I had to work with. So, what went into the oven is not lemon cake. It was happy accident cake. The Japanese have a term for happy accident – wabi sabi.

Embracing wabi sabi can help us with the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete world we are navigating while deciding and creating our new ‘now’.

At a time when we are looking to get things ‘right’, the idea of ‘best we can for now’ is more helpful for you, your team and your family.


How can we work with wabi sabi in our everyday to help engage ourselves and our teams?


I have spoken with a few clients and colleagues about the idea. They all had examples at an individual leader level and at an organisational level. Afterall, that’s where post-it notes came from!  The real benefit of wabi sabi is that it eases the way to still getting to a useful outcome. Just not in the way you meticulously planned or expected.


Here are the 3 things to look for to let wabi sabi work for you:


  • Call it – Be up front about the situation and the opportunity to try something different. No shame, no blame, just ‘this is where we are’.
  • Always come back to purpose. Always. – what were we really trying to achieve or deliver? Forget about the means. How can we still meet that goal with what has happened? This is also the point at which you need to determine if it is safe and smart to continue!
  • Play with the possibilities – who can help play with ideas or solutions and work out how we can do that (safely, legally, ethically)? What have we got that we can try out? Of course, larger things may need more structure but have the courage and curiosity to fail fast, fail cheap, fail often (to quote Rita Gunther McGrath).


If you’d like to continue the conversation, you can book a call with me.


How can we help?

  • Coaching – bringing in an ‘outside’ coach can help and that’s where we come in. We are ‘neutral territory’ and our focus as a coach to you is helping you achieve the outcomes you need of the change.
  • Plan to Land Change Workshop – we work with the change leader and their steering committee or project team to build the change strategy for the change and the action plan.
  • Leading Change Program – using Human Synergistics LSI1 & 2, we explore the current and future change leadership behaviours for individual leaders and their real-life application.
  • Leader’s Roadmap Pack – leading change in a crisis – we work with the leadership team to build a short-term, quick action plan.


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