Don’t mess with the workflow: links between clutter and creativity

The immaculate state of your personal space, whether at work, school or at home, has often been associated with one's ‘greatness’ or success in life. Research has however interrogated the accuracy of this particular perception.

A University of Minnesota study published in the journal of Psychological Science suggests that disorder inspires the mind to break free of norms and convention. The study also found that being surrounded by clutter can fuel creative thinking and stimulate novel ideas and thinking. Co-author of the study, Professor Kathleen D. Vohs:

Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: Creativity

Watch another author of this study, Professor Joseph Redden unpack its findings in this video below

Our prediction was that when you’re trying to do a creativity task, the disorganized room should actually facilitate that and help you break from the conventional thinking.. and come up with novel ideas.

In localising the study, psychologist Nthabiseng Ramothwala told 702's John Robbie that children often adopt the habits of those within their environment, such as parents and teachers. Ramothwala adds that children start to become their truer selves as they grow. She suggests that family and friends encourage difference in the ways children order their lives:

We’ve been brought up to think that being organized means you have order and success, or means saving time, but people who are disorganized and use clutter, have often already coded the clutter and know what it means. They know where they can find things and how to think about the mess.

The uniqueness debate isn't far away from Ramothwala's thoughts either:

We need to remember that people are different in terms of how they understand information and how they code information. You may see this at varsity. A person, who is clumsy, may always have a dirty room. But those could the one’s that perform the best in class or go on to become the best IT programmers and are often in the creative environment.

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