ARTICLE: Study finds messy desks site of creative sparks, Vancouver Sun April 9, 2006
You’ve seen it. You may even be the proud (or not-so-proud) owner of one. With stacks of papers, an explosion of post-it notes, scattered office supplies and a few industry magazines that date back to the early ’90s, a messy desk is more often than not assumed to be a sign of hopeless disorganization.
But a new study has found that a messy desk may well be a sign of creativity and signal great career potential.
In the January 2006 study by Cleveland-based PsyMax Solutions, work styles of hundreds of CEOs and other top executives were analyzed, revealing that these successful business people were markedly less organized but also more creative than other professionals.
The study found these high-level execs to score highest in areas of innovation and risk-taking, and low when it came to order and neatness.
And a 2005 study by New Jersey staffing firm Ajilon found that people with messy desks are more likely to earn higher salaries than their neat and tidy co-workers.
But while messiness seems to have no correlation to bad work habits or poor job performance, some employers may not have picked up the message yet.
As work-style assessments that rate an employee’s or potential employee’s work habits are increasingly used to make hiring decisions it’s important to ensure false assumptions, like a cluttered desk indicates a cluttered mind, are left out of the equation.
The risk, of course, for messy desk people is crossing that line from a minor disaster to all-out desktop Armageddon.
They (well, I should say we) have to watch for that tipping point, that place where things are starting to get misplaced, mail isn’t getting opened and the search for a pen is making you late for every meeting.
It’s also important to remember that every workplace needs diversity in all kinds of ways.
While messy people may be frustrating to the more neat and tidy among us, the yin and yang of the two groups, when managed properly, can be great for a workplace, drawing out complimentary skills and ensuring elements of high creativity and top-notch organization are both represented in every project.
What seems to matter more than messy versus tidy is effective versus ineffective. The question isn’t so much about which is better but about what is going to work best for you in your day-to-day work life.
I guess the bottom line is that neat or tidy, job performance is what really counts. And a messy desk is a sign of, well, a messy desk.