How about acknowledging the creativity in messiness?

Sunday, 3 November 2013 - 12:55pm IST | Agency: DNA

I have often wondered about the kind of discipline it takes, for people to maintain neat and clean desks.  Desks, which are almost bare, with no papers, no files, and not a trace of untidiness. It almost seems like nobody worked there.  Laptops and the advent of the paperless offices gave a boost to this philosophy as more often than not, the only item perched on large desks these days are just laptops.

Quite on the contrary, my desk is strewn with papers, files and reading material. Periodically, I shred the processed, unused papers. But there still is a big pile of papers sitting on my desk. Yet, I won’t call myself a hoarder. I know several people who hoard every bit of communication they receive. Their offices are full of cupboards that contain several files on every topic under the sun. I, however, subscribe to the viewpoint that when one receives a paper – it requires an immediate action from one of the following three options. First is that the paper has to filed, second is that it has to be marked to someone else and third where it has to be attended to at the earliest. Such papers in transit that need my attention make my desk look messy.

It was, therefore, a relief to read a recent report which stated messy tables were an indicator of creativity. Firstly, I am plainly happy to hear something positive about a messy desk because for years, clean desks have been associated with logical thinking and clarity of thought, while people with messy desks had to de-clutter! Personally, I thought otherwise and had a different analysis but never saw creativity amid the messiness.

Now is the era of action research. Researchers and academicians are gathering ground-surveys about every little query and are arriving at conclusions. The results of a recent study, conducted at the University of Minnesota, indicated that people with tidy desks had the tendency to do more ‘good’ as well as did a lot of charity. It was also found that tidy people chose healthier lifestyles and did more voluntary activities.  However, it was also concluded that people with messy or untidy desks seemed to have more ideation, and creative ideas.

This was a turnaround thought, to say the least. Multi-billion businesses are based on helping people de-clutter themselves, as clutter was always considered bad. But, this new theory of creativity in messiness with a certain method in madness comes as a huge relief to all those people with crowded desks like mine.

No matter if these findings can be proven or standardised or if there is more to this theory than just the initial findings.

This news has lifted the load off people hoarding guilt about their cluttered desks and the constant nudge to improve or de-clutter. So all you messy desk professionals out there – Rejoice!

In a recent study, it was concluded that people with messy or untidy desks seemed to have more ideation, and creative ideas.

Manjula pooja shroff
The writer is an entrepreneur and educationist

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