Planscape: Report reveals what a tidy or messy desk says about the personality

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Study confirms different states of cleanliness is linked to differing skills.

Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things.

How neat or disorganised a desk is can apparently be linked to what type of personality someone has, according to a recent study.

A report published in noted that workers with desks offering varied levels of organisation could be strongly connected to the types of strengths they could offer to their colleagues and employers.

"Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity," explained Kathleen Vohs, a University of Minnesota psychological scientist who undertook the research with fellow researchers. "We found, however, that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting."

In a series of experiments conducted by the team, there was one test in particular that really stood out to the researchers. Placing one group in a clean room while another group was sent to a messy room, the participants were asked to come up with new ideas for the use of ping pong balls. While both groups came up with the same number of uses, the research team judged the ideas generated by the ‘messy room’ group to be the more creative of the two.

"Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries and societies want more of: creativity," added Vohs.

Another observation made by the team was that when participants were offered a choice between a new product and an existing item, respondents in the messy room were more likely to go with the new product – highlighting the fact that being in a disorganised environment triggered a ‘release from conventionality’ – whilst those in a tidy area preferred the established product.

"Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights," said Vohs. "Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe."

"We are all exposed to various kinds of settings, such as in our office space, our homes, our cars, even on the Internet," Vohs said. "Whether you have control over the tidiness of the environment or not, you are exposed to it and our research shows it can affect you."

For a helping hand with creativity or a tidy workspace, speak to the specialists at Planscape on 0800 612 9608 – and enjoy stylish office furniture today.

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Mariel Norton
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