albert einstein quote

New Research: Messy Desk is a Sign of Intelligence and Creativity.

Messy desk, messy cubicle, messy desktop or messy workstation. Do any of these terms apply to you? Or you might also be the one who always has multiple tabs opened in his/her browser while working, because it’s easier for you to stay focused and alert – keeping an eye on multiple stuff. Well, yes, time for my confession here, I am one of those people who are called “messy”.

So, I could never explain my mom the logic behind my mess, especially when I am working or studying, my room gets messy as soon as I open up my bag, books, laptop etc. and honestly, mess simply helps me in focusing better, my stuff simply give me my comfort zone, but it’s really hard for other people to understand.

We are told to stay organized on every single step of our lives while growing up, because messiness is the sign of disorganization and apparently, it brings in no good image of us. But luckily, some recent studies have proven this new logic that can be termed as, creative mess or messy creativity.

Researchers studied some historic geniuses such as Albert Einstein, Mark Twains and even people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who always stayed disorganized at work. Don’t you believe me? See these original images below:

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mark-zuckerberg-office-e1388429978241 steve-jobs-desk

University of Minnesota recently conducted a research and they concluded results like this, “Scientists from the University of Minnesota found that being surrounded by clutter can promote creative thinking and stimulate new ideas. Messy people are also more likely to break with convention and try new things but aren’t as generous as people in tidy environments”, see their full article here.

Paper files, Newspaper clippings, torn pages from last month’s issue of the magazine, a few sticky notes, writing pad and a pen along with an empty cup of coffee is a kind of mess that messy people can easily relate to, because only an organizer knows what meaning he gets from those things.

“It’s not mess, basically its reference, sign, hint, ideas and above all its motivation to keep going”, said Aliah, a creative artist, while discussing this topic with me.

Well, let me put it this way – have you ever noticed a painter/artist painting a picture? If yes, you might have noticed his scattered brushes, paints, pencils and other tools all over his place – why? Because all those supplies help him in getting the best out of his creativity, they remind him what can be used to make a picture look better and he doesn’t have to take a pause to find out where are the paints or the brush he needs. This saves him from disturbance and interruption that might come in his way to creativity, otherwise.

Some people also say that when you are focused and deeply indulged in your work, mess happens. Because pausing to take care of things will definitely result in interruption, so instead of wasting time in organizing the stuff, one prefers to leave them till their work is done.

Now we all agree that creativity comes from out of the box thinking – which means unusual, amazingly bizarre and unconventional thinking, where you don’t follow the same rule or practice the same thing, and you don’t follow the crowd. Same is the case with mess, or should I say misplaced things, it is believed that when things are not in their right place or conventional place, where they are supposed to be – their misplacement provides you the power to think unconventionally and differently.

For example, when a table lamp is found on the floor of your room, won’t you think for a second why it is there, who could have put it on the floor instead of the table, why is it in the way or I should put it back, etc.? Yes? So, misplacement of the things opens up your mind to different questions, they help you think more by activating those analytical and reasoning cells in your mind, which otherwise wouldn’t have of course (if a lamp was on its right place).

I know many of you might not agree with me because it’s sometimes hard for organized people to understand this approach, like I mentioned in the start that I would never make my mother understand this theory. All of us have different kind of approach and perspective in doing things, the reason to write this blog post was to encourage different styles of working, there is nothing to be ashamed of for being disorganized and messy unless you can clearly differentiate between hygienic mess and unhygienic one.

Last but not the least, being an observer, I have personally seen many messy people who are brilliantly creative and intelligent in one field or another, so I believe messiness has something to do with creativity.

Are you messy or organized, let’s hear it from you, what’s your approach?

15 thoughts on “New Research: Messy Desk is a Sign of Intelligence and Creativity.

  1. Thanks For sharing This information. I am very amused (in a good way) by this new research. It certainly lifts pressure for many who are not naturally born to be highly organised.

    Referencing this back to MBTI preferences and how people behave when they are in the grip situations.

    • Thanks for your comment Shabnam,
      Yes, one of the main idea behind choosing this topic was to show support to the people who are considered as disorganized or messy by others, to some extent, I tried to clear out the bad image associated with this trait.

  2. Changing the way of thinking nice draft…Now can say to the managers that its messy because we are creative..!!

  3. Me and my daughter thrive better in messy surroundings. Though efforts are always on to keep our house uncluttered it doesn’t last for long. I keep on experimenting best out of waste and have cut outs of articles piling up. Hence need all the paraphernalia around me. When I am really low, I paint or write frantically and then I am at my creative best.

    My daughter follows suit. She studies, reads, paints, listens to music, tries out her shoes…all in a days work..what do you call such kind of activity?.

    In short we do a lot of activities to appease our restless natures and restlessness is a sign that u want to do the impossible.
    Yes, both are intelligent too…bookish and otherwise.

    • And that is exactly when people do wonders!
      One needs to identify in what environment they like to work.
      I am glad to know your approach, thanks for contributing

    • Indeed!
      It definitely is organized mess for the one who can make the sense out of his/her belongings.

  4. Relate to it 100%. My mess has always been a tool to keep me my mind active and to keep most of the facts on my finger tips and use them as needed fast. That’s something that has helped me in my career.

    • That is the very reason why it is called creative mess, it helps you in excelling even better in life and career, especially.
      Thanks Nada, for sharing your work and creative approach with us.

  5. Very well-articulated research, Thanks for the share Arzoona. I have to agree with Jaye Nolan’s comment here as I always been under the impression that I was organised which I wasn’t. I don’t pile papers on my desk rather keep every single document open in multiple tabs at once that my system got slow most of the time.

    • Thanks for the appreciation and commenting ma’am.
      I am glad to see that many people are able to relate to this research.

  6. I absolutely love this blog post! I am definitely a messy and unorganized person but I never thought that it could be linked to intelligence. I am so fascinated by the idea being that I was diagnosed ADHD and struggled hard to stay organized all throughout my life. It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I actually learned how intelligent I was. I am so inspired to write more on this subject. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Love the concept and wish it were invariably true, but in my case it isn’t. If you judge me by my mess — wow, I’m smarter than Einstein. If you judged me by my brain — no wow, no smart. Darn it!

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