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Monday, October 7, 2013

Should “Messies” Clean up?

A while back I watched an interview with a brilliant academic. He may well have been very bright, but his office was a mess! And it made me feel better.
I admit to it. I can work in a messy environment. In fact, that is my "normal."  And a recent study published online in Psychological Science gave me hope.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota wanted to find out if neat environments can produce good habits. College students were brought in for a test and put in adjacent office spaces. One was exquisitely neat. The other … very cluttered. After ten minutes, as subjects were leaving, they were offered a choice of an apple or chocolate.
Remarkably, the apples were the food of choice for most students in the clean room. And this group also seemed to trend towards more socially conscious behavior on such decisions. Score a big point for cleanliness.
But wait! A second experiment claimed a point for those working amidst chaos! In this test, participants in those same mixture of clean and cluttered offices were asked to come up with new uses for Ping-Pong balls. The messy office team proved significantly more creative at this. Yes! Score one for the messies!
In a third experiment, volunteers in the messy space were more likely to take a risk on trying a new flavor of lunchtime smoothie than the tidies. The environment seemed to prompt them to more risks. Score another point for messies.
In fairness, the experiments were demonstrating examples of cause and effect. Regardless of the personal style of participating, their work environment did influence the way they responded in several key areas. 
I am not advocating for either group. But I am refreshed to know that those  – like me – who work among our “stacks of stuff” are okay. And possibly, it helps our creativity. So in your office, give the messies a break … IF you want some creative results.
Any spiritual perspective here? Well, the Bible tells us in the creation account in Genesis that God brought order out of chaos. I’m grateful He did.  The exchange between God and Job also opens our eyes to the way God constructs the world in our behalf. Thirdly, 1Corinthians 14:40 instructs us about worship stating that “all things should be done decently and in order.”
On the other hand, our individual lives are often messy … filled with chaos. But there’s hope. As those created in God’s image, He offers us the wonderful gift of creativity to solve problems both big and small. 
Our grandkids love playing with a bag of foam shapes. We toss them on the floor and then build things. And then knock them over. Chaos … order …chaos … order. Fun stuff.
I’d love to keep going on this topic but, quite frankly, my garage is calling.
That’s the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.

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