I enjoyed this messy assessment of mess versus order. Like so many books like this, it doesn’t offer revelation so much as affirmation through aphorism, with plenty of examples and interviews to back these up.
The book aims to demonstrate that the costs of getting and staying organized can exceed the benefits, mostly through the ongoing efforts required to maintain order, while also outlining the potential benefits of some level of mess. While not advocating complete chaos, the authors do advocate allowing some mess to add character and sense to ones world. The book includes lengthy interviews and case studies, which both reinforce the lessons and take away from the flow of the book, making it much longer than it needs to be (while maybe they didn’t need a professional organizer, a better editor was likely called for here).
For a book advocating mess, there is considerable and worthy time spent on the classification of mess (12 different types, including clutter, mixture, noise and distortion) and the corresponding classifications of neatness, as well as the measures of mess (width, depth, intensity and scale). More interesting are the listed benefits of mess, based on several illuminating examples. Benefits include flexibility (messy systems can adapt to change quickly and effectively whereas organized systems are constrained by the very rules that keep them organized), invention (messy systems can allow unrelated items to align in unusual and inspiring ways that an organized system would never permit), and efficiency (messy systems are less costly than organized ones).
Likely the best example from the book is the deck of cards. Consider one deck kept in order, another shuffled. With each one, find the queen of hearts. Yes, with the ordered one, it would likely be quicker than with the shuffled one. However, the work involved in making and then keeping the deck in order quickly exceeds the time spent looking for the desired card in the shuffled deck. In other words, the work of maintaining order is sometimes not worth it.
Some other take-aways for me:
Who is Robyn?
My career as a research project manager is rewarding, dynamic, challenging, and fun. I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience in communication, organization, and common sense approaches in research management and leadership, and to enabling others to learn and grow in this exciting career.