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The perfect mess

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  • The perfect mess

    In a new book: The perfect mess

    http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Mess-D...9819514&sr=1-1

    2 USA professors show that a tidy and organised office reduses the amount of work done and creativity, in fact they find the more untidy and messy your office is, the higher salery you have, because you do more work and show larger creativity, this because you dont waste time in planning, organising and tidying up.

    I wonder if David Allen has read this book? its directly against key parts of the GTD system. A tidy work place is number one, before you can start to look at the rest of the gtd system (David Allens book chapter4).

    This is something to think about!!!!

  • #2
    This is something that I do not want to waste time on.

    Originally posted by haga2000 View Post
    This is something to think about!!!!
    This is something that I do not want to waste time on.

    Comment


    • #3
      Actually, I think it's a load of bollocks. They don't discuss (as far as I know, anyway) how much time is wasted looking for things, how many deadlines are missed, how much of the actual work is shunted onto other people (including, perhaps, the people with tidy offices), whether they got to be successful before or after their desks got messy, whether they have assistants, and so on and so forth. There's a wealth of variables that they don't seem to look at: it's simply a matter of observing a few cases, and making up reasons why they might be both successful and messy.

      This theory gets bruited about every so often, and it's never been proven satisfactorily as far as I know. There's a couple of logical flaws, in that they're assuming that correlation proves causation (ie that because two things occur together, that one causes the other). And it doesn't seem that they've even established correlation, in any meaningful way.

      I'd also like to point out that the authors, one of whom is a professor of management and the other an editor, don't know much about proof. Perhaps I'm being extra pedantic, because my background is in mathematics, but proof of this theory would require at the very least a reasonable statistical study, or some amount of logical reasoning. I'm willing to bet big dollars (that I don't actually have, so don't take me up on this) that neither author even knows what that would mean. They simply look at some instances where people with messy offices have been successful.

      That's rather like saying that wheelchair-bound makes you a world-class scientist, simply because Stephen Hawking is both.

      Comment


      • #4
        Very good point!

        Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
        That's rather like saying that wheelchair-bound makes you a world-class scientist, simply because Stephen Hawking is both.
        Very good point!

        Comment


        • #5
          Given that the typical person has a typical level of organization, it follows that those who are more productive, successful, busy and creative will tend to have a bigger mess. That's about the same thing as saying that a wealthy person has a thicker wallet than a poor person. The thick wallet does not cause the wealth and the mess does not cause the productivity.

          If you took one of those productive, successful and messy people and GTDd them, they would lose the mess and become even more productive, successful and creative.

          Comment


          • #6
            Well said!

            Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
            Actually, I think it's a load of bollocks.
            Nicely put Alison...and how convenient to have an Australian on hand to give an accurate description of this kind of rubbish. I really can't understand how people get paid for writing such stuff.

            One of the benefits that GTD has given me is a permanently tidy office, something I could never achieve consistently over many years. The system of regular In-to-Empty keeps me this way and I am certainly more creative because I am less stressed by my environment.

            Comment


            • #7
              As a convert from extreme messiness to GTD, I would never, ever want to go back to my old messy, stressed-out state. Indeed, up until recently, I had a hard time letting go of that stressed-out feeling; in fact, I confused it with creativity and hard work. The fact that I didn't feel as stressed-out with GTD made me (incorrectly) believe that I wasn't being as productive or creative--when, in fact, I was simply getting stuff done earlier and with less fuss.

              That said, GTD works for me because it acknowledges the "chaos" of stuff and provides a means of coralling and managing it. Other productivity regimes never worked for me because they involved too much forward-planning--you had to map out your entire life ahead of time, assigning priorities, creating project plans, etc. With GTD, I know that everything is under control in my system--but I also know that there's room for creative, intuitive leaps. It also allows me to respond quickly and gracefully when projects and priorities change. Seriously, what other organizational scheme celebrates impromptu, back-of-the-envelope planning?

              With GTD, I can spill out the contents of a project folder on my desk and be as messy and "creative" as I like - but I also know that the project folder will go back in the drawer and new items will go into my inbox - and (most remarkably) that I will follow up on these new items. Most remarkably, GTD allows me to capture ideas and incoming stuff even in the midst of a "messy" day. By contrast, under my old chaotic regime I lost hundreds of creative idea simply because I had no system for processing them - they all got stuffed into drawers, boxes - never to be looked at again. I was always brainstorming and putzing around - but never following through to completion.

              The authors of the "messiness book" set up too stark a dichotomy between messy and clean. The assumption is that "clean" is uptight, type-A, uncreative, whereas "messy" is creative, inspired, etc. This is simply a tired cliche--on par with the old canard that "creative" types aren't good at math.

              In short, the best system is a flexible one, which allows for chaos within order and control. This, to me, is the huge strength of GTD.
              Last edited by madalu; 05-22-2007, 11:29 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by unstuffed View Post

                I'd also like to point out that the authors, one of whom is a professor of management and the other an editor, don't know much about proof. Perhaps I'm being extra pedantic, because my background is in mathematics, but proof of this theory would require at the very least a reasonable statistical study, or some amount of logical reasoning. I'm willing to bet big dollars (that I don't actually have, so don't take me up on this) that neither author even knows what that would mean. They simply look at some instances where people with messy offices have been successful.
                Unstuffed, from a fellow mathematician I was pleased to see your response. No doubt the proof in this instance would have to be a sample of interviews with employees - across a broad range of occupations and from the top to the bottom of the organisation chart - with a predefined scorecard on how to measure "messy" - and then correlate the statistics.

                There is one snag though.

                The sample will always be skewed because the GTDers would never waste their time in agreeing to such an interview in the first place.

                Conclusion: its a load of bollocks, as Unstuffed quite eloquently put it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by madalu View Post
                  In short, the best system is a flexible one, which allows for chaos within order and control. This, to me, is the huge strength of GTD.
                  Very insightful madalu.

                  In the context of the David Allen Forum and the fact that like many others here, GTD has been a revelation and life changing system for me, I feel like I'm shooting Bambi's mother if I play devil's advocate on the "mess" thing.

                  The Perfect Mess book did say that it's not about "pathological" messiness where we can't find what we're looking for and are drowning in our disorder. Rather about something else. Ill defined but that doesn't mean they're totally off the mark. (I know, I know).

                  This will all look like Amazon.com but…..

                  I'm not a mathematician but I have read
                  The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
                  His take on statistical outliers (the ones low in probability-but high in impact) which can be likened to Fleming's Penicillin discovery is food for thought (or mold for thought).

                  Unstuffed, in the other "Mess" post by tominperu you mentioned fractals – very sharp statement- after I read this book I got what you mean to the best of my understanding.

                  And recently the positive side of digital mess is covered in
                  " Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder" by David Weinberger. Less order in the virtual world, more power in its organization.

                  And if creativity is the bringing together of disparate unrelated items (a whole mess of them) to form new meaning, this is covered in
                  "The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures (Hardcover) by Frans Johansson

                  And why I'm sticking around GTD----
                  In "Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity And the New Science of Ideas" by Richard Ogle
                  Here you can see a very strong indirect validation for GTD in all of this – as DA says to get everything out of our minds –write it down- do the cognitive distribution thing, Ogle's argument is very similar.

                  He advocates brain emptying to-" make our (outer) world smart so we can be dumb in peace" (kinda like Mind Like Water).

                  It's not too much of a stretch to realize our GTD lists out there are an extension of our mind. "We use intelligence to structure our environment so we can succeed with less intelligence", as Ogle says.

                  Now what about complexity theory...........

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I've read this book, and found it interesting.

                    I think that her basic premise that there is such a thing as pathological neatness is correct, but she reaches some faulty conclusions on the path to this premise. As others have pointed out, she has a penchant from making some rather unscientific assertions on scanty evidence.

                    The part of the book I found most bizzare was her defense of (or dare I say ode to) suburban sprawl, and her apparent belief that anyone who disliked strip-malls and seas of parking lots surrounding indistinguishable big-box stores is inegalitarian and family unfriendly because they clearly don't understand the real-world needs of families with young children (a definite "bwah?" head-scratching moment for me.)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                      This is something that I do not want to waste time on.
                      You are wise. Ugh -- three hours of my life I'll never get back!

                      Many people have criticized A Perfect Mess without having read it. Interestingly, the arguments they assume the book makes are often better than what's actually in the book.

                      The authors insist on describing "mess" in affirmative terms (e.g., arguing for an "optimal level of mess") rather than the relative absence of order. This would be like a physics text discussing "cold" as something other than the relative absence of heat. "Mess" becomes so subjective that its definition morphs arbitrarily from one context to the next: Schwarzenegger's eclectic politics, Gehry's waveform architecture, Microsoft's ready-fire-aim approach to software releases, al-Qaeda's shrewd guerilla tactics, bazaar-style hardware stores.

                      Targeting Allen's and Covey's list management practices, Abramson and Freedman ask, "But what if there's something to do that's not on your list?" (Uh, put it on? Do it?) They frequently defend the messy desk, arguing that the important paperwork is usually found at the top of the piles, and therefore provides faster access the files.

                      I could go on, but TesTeq had the right idea.

                      If you must read something in this vein, pick up DeMarco's Slack or Peckham's Man's Rage for Chaos; much better books.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Proposal for study of messy = creative hypothesis

                        Actually, it wouldn't be hard to design a study to support or disprove the idea that messiness is correlated with creativity. The research question would be: what is the relationship between organizational style and creativity? The investigator would develop a question or observation guide to give a numerical value to relative messiness of desk, calendar, life, et al. and a questionnaire/observation guide to give a numerical value to the subject's relative creativity. Then the trained research assistants would fan out over the city, country, or internet, measuring the relative organization/messiness and the creativity/unimaginativeness of about 200-1000 people. After appropriate statistical analysis, we'd have the answer.

                        And the whole process would take onlytwo or three years!

                        As for me, I know I get more creative and productive as my messiness decreases!

                        Rachel

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