Cluttered desk, creative mind
The school reported this week on a study regarding cluttered workspaces.
The findings have been published in the journal Psychological Science and, not surprisingly, showed that people with disorganized workspaces tend to be more creative thinkers. I say not surprisingly because analog great Bob Pease’s desk was so messy EDN devoted a video tribute to it upon Bob’s passing.
In short, study subjects were asked to perform tasks in either tidy or cluttered settings. First, they answered a survey, then were asked to contribute to a charity, and were also offered an apple or a chocolate bar.
According to the school, participants in the neater rooms overwhelmingly opted to donate and selected the apple option (what society tells us would be the “right” thing to do, given the options), while subjects from the messier rooms were less willing to donate, and more likely to choose the candy bar.
"A lot of our behavior conforms to what we think other people want us to do," said Joe Redden, an assistant professor at the school. "If an environment is clean and professional, we feel we should act that way. And if it's more relaxed and carefree, we can let ourselves go a little bit."
So the neater rooms pushed people to conform to the more socially acceptable behaviors while people in the messier rooms thought for themselves, less willing to conform like cubical borgs.
Engineers, we know, may work in cubes but they are not borgs. You all have some of the messiest desks on the planet and are some of the most creative people on the planet, which somewhat proves the school’s research.
As I’ve stated before on EDN, I’m not an engineer myself, just someone who appreciates engineering. And while I’ve see “organized” show up on HR report after HR report regarding my performance over the years at EDN, the truth is that while my output may appear tidy and organized, I’m far from it. Chaos is my organization.
Given the study and my hope that you’ll send in photos of your own chaotically creative workspaces, here are a few shots of my own creative space.
So, given the disorderly state of my desk and its related out-of-the-box thinking, I’ll sit back and relax as I wait for the genius (and your own photos) to come in.
Send photos of your own creative mess via email. And share your thoughts on the study’s main finding – that cluttered desks signal more creative minds – below.
Video goodbye to Bob Pease's office