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Action Tip

How use to messiness to enhance your performance

What does it take to boost creativity and resilience with a little messy unpredictability and flexibility? It starts with being willing to tolerate physical messiness in your workspaces but also goes beyond that to include adding “all kinds of conceptual messes and disorder” to your team management, communications, and business strategies.

Based On

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives 
Tim Harford (Little, Brown Book Group, october 2016). 

1. Don’t worry about anyone’s desk but your own

A neat and tidy work environment is linked to greater productivity and efficiency, right? When it comes to office design (whenever you can get back in your offices!) and productivity, efficiency and wellbeing, the only thing that turns out to matter is employee control. A 2010 study found that office spaces in which people were given a say in how to organize and decorate their workspaces got 30% more done than people who work in purely minimalist offices stripped of any decorative elements, and 15% more than people in offices with decorative elements over which they had no say. 

  • Don’t seek to impose your aesthetic tastes on your teams: The least creative organizations are managed with the same “tidy-minded aesthetic” that “this place should look the way the boss wants it to look.” On the other hand, the most creative organizations (including, for example, Apple, Google, and the research labs at MIT) are all managed according a very different, messy aesthetic: “it doesn’t matter how this place looks.”  
  • Give people maximum control over workspaces: When it comes to personal offices, cubicles, and desks, give employees maximum freedom to organize and personalize as they see fit. When it comes to communal spaces, design them to be reconfigurable and authorize staff to adapt them to meet their changing collaborative needs.  

2. Add a bit of mess to your teams

Adding a bit of “mess” to teamwork is a proven way to boost creative output. Multiply the creatively fertile disruptions to which you and your teams are exposed: 

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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.