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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Perfect Mess

I’ve just read a fascinating book entitled A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder — How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place, by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman. If you’ve ever suspected that your messy desk is actually more useful than a pristine work surface, this is the book for you. Those of us who are caught in the paradox of being mentally organized but physically disorganized find much food for thought in Abrahamson and Freedman’s counterintuitive arguments supporting the productivity of disorder. Abrahamson is a professor of management at Columbia Business School, so presumably he knows whereof he writes. As an organization system junkie and a Getting Things Done wannabe with a perennial messy desk, I find the arguments put forth by him and Freedman rather appealing, though not entirely convincing.

I have to go visit a local hardware store discussed by the authors: Harvey’s in Needham. In contrast to Home Depot, Harvey’s appears to be a total mess. But it was cited by Inc. Magazine as the best small business in the country. Freedman writes for Inc., so this is certainly not a coincidence.

My classes are much better when they’re planned than when they’re unplanned. They’re better still when they’re planned but turn out not to follow the plan very well. There’s probably a moral here somewhere...

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