Getting Ideas By Getting Messy

by | Process

There’s no shortage of advice about how to get organized. There’s a lot of emphasis in the productivity movement around cleaning up, creating “Zen–like” workspaces, and removing clutter. I admit that I prefer a clean workspace. I need some semblance of order in order to put my messy mind at rest.  I organize when I begin a new project, or when I start the sense that my perceptions are overloaded with too much stimuli in my environment.

I was fascinated by this article describing an installation at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art called The Obliteration Room. In the experiment a room and its furniture were painted white, and over the course of a few weeks children were given multi-colored stickers to place anywhere in the room. The article describes what happens next:

Over the course of two weeks, the museum’s smallest visitors were given thousands upon thousands of colored dot stickers and were invited to collaborate in the transformation of the space, turning the house into a vibrantly mottled explosion of color.

In fact, the phrase that popped to mind is that it is was beautiful mess. This made me wonder whether our obsession with getting organized is actually, in some cases, interfering with our ability to seek serendipity in our creative process.

The creative process is often fueled by, as Steven Johnson calls it, “getting more parts on the table”. When we have a space in which we can be messy, get more parts on the table, and explore novel combinations, we often find serendipity striking us at the least expected moment.

So where is your obliteration room? Where is your space in which you have permission to get messy? Could you set aside a space for your team? Do you have one for yourself; a corner of your room, perhaps? Or maybe just a time at some point during your week in which you let yourself make a mess? After all, birth is messy.

via This is What Happens When You Give Thousands of Stickers to Thousands of Kids | Colossal.

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.


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