There may be a negative correlation between creativity and tidy desks. If there is, that would probably explain my work space. I’ve had managers in the past who encourage organizing the piles of paper and other managers who do not care. Well, I listened to a short piece on NPR’s Marketplace which mentioned a new study that says that disorganization isn’t always bad. There’s another anti-productivity guru philosophy for you.
It turns out we did a survey, and most people have messy desks. They tend to people guilty about it and they assume they oughta clean it up. In fact, if you have a really neat desk, then that means you’re spending a certain amount of time taking every piece of paper that comes across your desk and processing it in some way. If you keep a really messy desk, and what happens naturally is the stuff that you’re really working on and that’s more important tends to gravitate towards the front of the desk and the top of piles.
Now you’re gonna end up searching through some of these piles sometimes, but that’s not a bad thing. Because when you search through piles you end up finding things that would have been buried away in a neat person’s file cabinet and you can make connections. And in fact one Nobel prize directly owes its origin to a researcher who made a connection by searching through a stupendously messy desk.
Listen to the whole interview on Marketplace.
Updated December 20, 2011 and originally published January 3, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @flexo on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.