In a study led by Kathleen Vohs, associate professor of marketing at University of Minnesota, those who work in a room that is in slight disarray perform better at creative tasks.
The study asked a group of students to complete an assignment. Half the students were placed in a neat room; the other half worked in a room that was disorderly. The latter group came up with more creative ideas.
“Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe,” said Vohs in a recent article on Salon.com.
“Being creative is aided by breaking away from tradition, order and convention, and a disorderly environment seems to help people do just that.”
Taken to its logical conclusion, “disarray” is clutter, and that’s probably not what’s being observed or valued, here. Rather, it’s likely the impression of the opportunity for flexibility. Highly ordered environments don’t communicate that opportunity, but workplaces can be clean, well organized, and clutter-free yet still convey creativity and flexibility.
They just need to be designed that way.