Last year, our sister site EETimes posted our first gallery of the messiest engineering desks, and we followed up earlier this year with one of our own. Our thought was, "The messier the desk, the more of a genius its owner must be."
We are putting the call out again. Send photos of your disheveled workspace, along with a short caption, to executive editor Jennifer Campbell, and we'll post the results on Designnews.com in the coming weeks.
"Those who subscribe to a Clean Desk Policy can never experience the delight of finding something that was thought to be irretrievably lost!" - Unknown.
Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.
In fact, in the days I was still allowed to eat chocolate peanuts and raisins, I would tip the whole packet on my desk above my keyboard and, lo and behold, finding a stray one weeks later... tastes so much better!
I've had a number of conversations over the years and have found that some managers like to use "relocation" every couple years to keep the messy desks to a minimum. While I'm not one to win a competion such as this, I don't necessarily have neat little piles either. Just a happy medium. Since I have been doing some contract work lately, it does force a higher standard since you only bring what you really need.
Kid, my friend, I'm sorry I have to disagree a little on one point, my experience has been messy vs. clean are just two different strategies of organization. I do think this whole blog misses the point, our highly revered (rightfully so) engineering forefathers with the messy desks were able to find whatever it was they were looking for, or whatever it was someone asked them for. Clean or messy, Felix Unger or Oscar Madison, ask them for, say, that obscure nitnoid specification on that component released several years before and see how long it takes for them to find it. Felix would go digging through the numerous hanging files in the desk drawers, Oscar through the numerous piles on top of the desk.
Another offensive thing about this contest is the presumptuous position assumed by the "cleaners" in holding the darned thing! Cleaners are those who use organization method "A" (which they call "organized" or "clean"). They begin from a self-appointed position of authority from whence they chide others who use method "B" (which cleaners call "messy")
Bottom Line: What counts are RESULTS. Results are measured in fixed qualities of design and manufacturing, mesured in units of time, cost, and excellencies of performance. Those significant outputs are measured against specifications supplied by the customer, or by engineering standards, or by other fixed boundaries which transcend personal habits or preferences unrelated to the outcome.
They are not achieved by conformance to preconceived notions of "correct placement of desk objects during the design phase" especially when the placements are those postulated by others.If they were, we could simply glue down everyone's inkwell and desk calendar and go home. All designs would be excellent!
The units of production output which meet or exceed the requirements are quality...PERIOD. Further, rather than becoming suspect, the work habits of the person who achieves those excellent performance characteristics in T/C/E should be considered the norm. If type "B" results in lower cost, faster output, higher excellence, then type "B" (mess) should be "best practice" or "correct". Cleaners should be required to have type B (messy) desks!
To my knowledge, there is no additional measurement wherby the placement of objects on her desk later disqualifies the quality of the designer's output. This is true even if the object placment practice does not conform to a particular organization scheme favored by others (even majorities of others)
These spurious categories of work style and/or practices which do not bear on the measured outcomes of interest are nothing more than artificial constraints constructed by those who believe their job is mostly to achieve uniformity of behavior, not excellence of design. Truth be told, those uniformities are nothing more than make-work invented by that majority of persons in the workplace. That sad majority are those who are almost daily frightened to face the relatively blank slate of their actual creative capacities. They therefore fill in the blanks with organizational make-work, forming a veritable religion of organizational taboos and rituals with workers around them. They find their power in the fact that such substandard performers constitute the majority in many workplaces.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
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