Your Messy Desk May Be a Good Thing

Research shows a messy office space may boost your creativity.

Struggling to keep your office space clean and organized? Maybe you don’t need to.

Research shows that a disorganized, messy work space can foster creativity.

Earlier this month, Kathleen Vohs – a University of Minnesota marketing professor and consumer psychologist, presented her work linking disorganized work spaces to creativity at the Yale School of Management’s Art, Mind + Markets conference, Inc.com said.

Vohs and her colleagues have researched the impact of visual order on creativity time and time again and the results are the same. She described her work in a New York Times article. Vohs’ experiment involved assigning research participants to either a messy or clean room and then asking them to think of as many new uses for Ping-Pong balls as possible. The results?

The messy-room subjects were more creative, as we expected. Not only were their ideas 28 percent more creative on average, but when we analyzed the ideas that judges scored as “highly creative,” we found a remarkable boost from being in the messy room — these subjects came up with almost five times the number of highly creative responses as did their tidy-room counterparts.

So should everyone stop tidying up their work space in hopes of fostering creativity? No. Both neat and messy spaces have their place in work settings. Vohs told Inc.com that “a setting with visual disorder might facilitate brainstorming, while an orderly setting might be better for a fast meeting where an immediate decision is required.”

Although I strive to keep an organized desk space, I don’t always succeed. I find myself distracted when I’m surrounded by mess. But after reading about Vohs’ research, maybe I’ll try and embrace the clutter. After all, it was Einstein who said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Hmm.

How about you? Do you keep a clean or messy office space? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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