As the photo above suggests, this may be among the most self-justifying of blog posts: A short write-up of a recent study indicating that messiness may nurture creativity.
Marketing professor Kathleen D. Vohs (U. Minnesota) writes in Sunday’s New York Times about the results of a multi-layered study that she and her colleagues conducted:
Not long ago, two of my colleagues and I speculated that messiness, like tidiness, might serve a purpose. Since tidiness has been associated with upholding societal standards, we predicted that just being around tidiness would elicit a desire for convention. We also predicted the opposite: that being around messiness would lead people away from convention, in favor of new directions.
We conducted some experiments to test these intuitions, and as we reported in last month’s issue of the journal Psychological Science, our hunches were borne out.
I’ll let you read the full op-ed piece for a summary of how they conducted their experiments, but their bottom line is that messiness may enhance our creative impulses.
It follows that minimalist office designs, seemingly in vogue these days, may have unintended downsides:
At the same time, the working world is abuzz about cultivating innovation and creativity, endeavors that our findings suggest might be hampered by the minimalist movement. While cleaning up certainly has its benefits, clean spaces might be too conventional to let inspiration flow.
It takes all kinds
Tongue-in-cheek aside, this is not a full-blooded case for messy work settings. Tidiness has its place.
Take, for example, the term “shipshape.” It refers to “meticulous order and neatness,” according to TheFreeDictionary.com. On a ship, everything should be in its place, and for good reason: Lives may depend upon it. If you step aboard a boat, and you see gear and gadgetry randomly strewn all around the deck, be worried, very worried. (Get back ashore, or jump if you must!)
Other work settings, however, present different priorities and purposes, and insisting that everything be shipshape could be detrimental to your ultimate goals. In fact, if we want to encourage creativity and innovation, perhaps our physical work environments might best reflect the very brainstorming occurring in our heads.
To bring it back to me: Yes, a lawyer’s case files should be organized and orderly. But maybe a law professor’s office can afford a few piles here and there (and everywhere).