Recently my colleague and desk mate Lauren decided she had finally had enough of my desk clutter gradually creeping towards her border and declared war, giving it a thorough yet futile clean up. Shots were fired, words were exchanged and within five minutes I’d began to rebuild my empire of accumulated so-called crap.
“Don’t you feel better now your desk is nice and clean?” she asked in exasperation.
No I bloody don’t! It’s stifling and unnatural and I have (vague) scientific evidence that my clutter is conducive to my work, as pointed out in this article in The Telegraph
Professor Kathleen Vohs and fellow researchers at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis claim that after mapping the behaviour of people working on messy and clean desks with a series of experiments, those with messy desks are more creative.
For example, participants in the study were given a choice between a new product and an established one. Those in the messy room were more likely to prefer the latest-release one – a signal that being in a disorderly environment prompts a release from conventionality.
Professor Vohs said: “Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of – creativity.”
Checkmate Lauren. Heck, even Google actively promotes a busy desk. As Business Insider explains in an interesting anecdote where former Google CEO Eric Schmidt attempted to clean the office and immediately received a pretty heated response from the now current Google CEO Larry Page. Schmidt realised he’d made a mistake by trying to alter the Google employees ability to express themselves in the workplace and quickly adapted to their ethos.
There’s a long list of exceptionally successful minds who had messy desks, from Albert Einstein to Mark Twain and Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg and it’s hard to imagine how different the world could have been if they had been forced to tidy their work place.
So next time someone tries to tidy your desk and asks how you can work like that, think back this list of geniuses, coolly laugh and carry on about your creative business.
To finish my argument I will end with a quote from Einstein:
That is unless your clutter involves old food and dirty plates. Old food bring flies and not even Einstein had time for those, plus no one wants to be the office tramp. Clean it up!