Forget the Clean Desk Policy, Go Messy!

Albert Einstein office

For many years, employees in the corporate office have been told to have a clean desk at the end of their working day. However, for those numerous recalcitrants of unhindered mess that have deliberately not heeded the instruction, relax, as you are indeed the wise ones!

Yes, according to a soon to be prestigious university, in the not too distant future, some ground-breaking research will be remarkably discovered under copious reams of randomly scattered papers deeply buried on the Professor’s desk.

Although the handwriting will be a tad illegible, the key findings will be indisputable.

Finding 1: Dementia
A messy desk requires the owner to have a phenomenal memory in knowing exactly in which pile that unique piece of paper scribble written more than 6 months ago had been placed. A clean desk provides no such opportunity to test and improve your mental memory faculties.

Finding 2: Thinking Time
If you add up all the time that an employee wastes in tidying up their desk at the end of each day, you would immediately rescind the instruction. Messy employees are blessed with having additional time for strategic thinking by not wasting their valuable intellect in work distracting activities such as cleanliness.

Finding 3: The Purge
Those with a messy desk are not presented with the potential threat of discarding an important document on a daily basis. They have a more cunning and clever methodology where their entire desktop is typically purged on an annual basis. Afterall, if a paper hasn’t been touched once during that time period, then by default it can be deemed not important and can be happily placed in the recycle bin without any hesitation or doubt.

Finding 4: Security
Now this is the mistaken crux of the clean desk policy, that being, that an unwanted intruder won’t be tempted to steal a document that cannot be seen. But this is where the messy desk has a distinct advantage in that the patience of the industrial spy will be tested to the point of severe frustration as they willingly give up searching for that prized paper gem, owing to the severe lack of order and ingeniously unfathomable filing system.

Now when you add all these four masterly findings together, the true source of the research is disclosed, that being innovation. Yes, if you want to promote an innovation mindset in your corporate office, you should actively encourage mess.

Yes, mess is indeed the best.

 

Let the Ideas In

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Many corporate offices these days are starting to have a somewhat cloned appearance of the CIA, MI6, ASIO, and most other intelligence organizations, with all the security gadgets located throughout their buildings. This is evident by the increasing visibility of security cameras, sensor movement measuring devices, electronic swipe cards and other items that may have been derived from a James Bond 007 movie!

These security measures are very successful at keeping unwanted people out, and those valued people in, together with protecting the businesses intellectual property and other strategic assets. This security focus also permeates into the organization’s hierarchy and culture where only a limited number of vetted employees are allowed to represent the business in the external world to ensure consistency of message.

A major consequence of these established corporate fortresses is that many new ideas, creativity and innovations are also blocked from entering the organization. Many companies utilise a limited number of gatekeepers to filter and disseminate information inputs into the organization thereby ensuring a consistent methodology to evaluate potential opportunities in accordance with well established, and approved, corporate guidelines. However, this can result in stifling innovation and in restricting the highly needed creative thought that is essential to the longer-term and ongoing success of the organization.

The solution is for organizations to have a broad network of “idea collection systems” in place to seek out, identify and gather new thoughts that can analysed further to better understand current and future consumer trends and market requirements. The key is to allow many employees in the corporate structure, not just the chosen few, to have the opportunity to source these ideas without the use of the approved corporate filtering and distillation processes, otherwise this will again lead to a narrow view of potential innovation opportunities.

These “idea collection systems” do not need to be extremely ornate, sophisticated or expensive, but can be achieved via allowing people from a broad cross-section of the organization access to a variety of external information stimuli that they would not normally have exposure to via their traditional job roles. Examples of these “idea collection systems” could be; magazine subscriptions (HBR, The New Yorker, Food and Wine, MAD Magazine, Top Gear, etc), attending seminars, webinars, workshops, interest groups, factory tours, plays, book reviews, plus many more! The objective is creative diversity with ideas sourced from outside their current “thought zone”.

The vast array of collected ideas should then be pooled into a continually overflowing “idea bucket” from which those versed in the identification of potentially new ideas and products review on a regular basis. With time, I’m sure that this collective of numerous ideas will lead to many commercially new and innovative products being developed to provide future long-term benefit and financial sustenance to the corporate organization.

The corporate goal should be to have many employee “ears and eyes” constantly seeking new thoughts to add to the “idea collection systems”. But to do this, the corporate organization needs to be bold, to listen, and to “Let the Ideas In”!

 

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