I have a confession to make. Clutter does not bother me. Which is a good thing, considering I share my workspace with 2 teenagers, 2 dogs, a cat and a spouse. Luckily, dogs take naps, teens go to school and my spouse goes to work elsewhere, but they do leave behind enough clutter to drive anyone else crazy.
A recent study we read about in Pacific Standard Magazine discovered that I may not have to clean the house before I finish this post:
“‘Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” a team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota’s Kathleen Vohs writes in the journal Psychological Science. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.’”
The study used the challenge of having to find something innovative to do with ping-pong balls while working in a neat room or a messy room. The messy room subjects and the neat room subjects came up with the same number of ideas, but the messy room folks’ ideas were more innovative.
You might have noticed that we like these kinds of studies: what makes people more creative or helps them get past creative blocks. Of course, we are all different and have our individual preferences. If you need a tidy space before your ideas can flow, plan time to tidy up before you sit down to work on that project so the clutter doesn’t get in the way. But if you’re okay with a little chaos in your workspace, you might come up with better ideas.
The bottom line is know yourself. Your process is yours–own it. And try to be tolerant of colleagues and co-workers who have different preferences. The person in the cubicle next to you might need all those post-it notes on the walls to help her to think outside the cube.
Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative