Monday, March 2, 2009 by Dave Blum

>Years ago while teaching English in Japan, I was struck by the fact that many of the female models and pop stars had (at least) one crooked tooth.  Clearly there was some peculiarly Asian aesthetic going on here that I was missing, an aesthetic that was very different from the Western approach to “beauty”.  Later, I had an opportunity to visit the home of a Japanese architect.  Upon entering his flat, I noticed immediately that the living room was positively huge in comparison to the kitchen, which was rather narrow and cramped.  When I asked him why he had designed it this way, the architect said, “I believe that every space should incorporate some imperfection, some inconvenience.” 

What an interesting conceit!  Imperfection = beauty!  As a leader of corporate team building activities I’ve given this concept a lot of thought over the years.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if we organized our project and work teams with this same aesthetic in mind?   Built-in imperfection!  When you see an imperfect smile, or enter an orderly room of chairs with one out place, the incongruity jumps out you.  You want to reach out and fix things — the disorder creates a physical impulse which thereby generates energy

So how about adding one member to our teams who doesn’t seem to fit in, whose unlikely inclusion will create “healthy dis-equilibrium”?  Or why not vary our meeting locations — occasionally gathering in a space that’s ever-so-slightly uncomfortable?  One of the team building ideas I’ve been playing around with is having people create a picture of their perfect day or perfect project — and then adding one flaw to the drawing.  

The point in all of this, whether at the workplace or in team building exercises, is to take people out of their “ideal” comfort zone.  Sometimes the most innovation and creativity comes when you look at things crookedly.