Engineering desks can be an art form all their own. Readers of our sister site EETimes responded to a challenge by EELife editorial director Brian Fuller, who posited the maxim that the messier the desk, the more of a genius its owner must be. The photos came rolling in.
Click the image below to view a slideshow of 11 of the messiest engineer's desks around:
Christopher Nelson of Fort Wayne, Ind., writes of his upside-down chair: "I actually don't remember how it got there. I am 6'4" and destroyed the first few chairs when I came to work so it is probably one of those. Currently, part of what I do is help design computers for audio professionals. This area is an R&D, testing, and repair area."
At Design News, we'd like to put together our own, mechanically oriented collection. Please send your pictures to content director Alexander Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some messy desks show the historic record of the latest major invention; go down layer by layer and you'll find the spark of a hundred ideas that didn't pan out. Every idea started, went a while then branched out in another direction leaving the parts sitting there on the bench waiting for the time and energy to chase the original idea to it's conclusion. Some messy desks are there becuase there is no storage area and the stuff on the desk is too valuable to throw away. Then, there are those desks that are left a mess just to annoy the boss. The problem is telling the difference.
Good point Chuck. One might be tempted to equate messiness with creativity, but that's probably a romantic view. Messiness could also be construed as a matter of priorities (what are you going to spend your time doing, cleaning the desk or getting a job finished?). But you're probably right -- messiness is just messiness.
I'd like to reprise our call for design engineers to please send us their own messy desk pictures, so we can do a follow up slideshow. Send them to me, content director Alex Wolfe, at Alex.Wolfe@ubm.com
My Americam patriotism is a lot closer to my heart than being stuck in my back pocket. Our freedom is why it is OK for you to believe that you are right, whith your fixation. That same freedom allows me to be different from you, and not have to be punished for it. creating something new means coming up with something that is different from the string of identical widgets coming down the assembly line. BY all means, where product uniformity is the number one target, there is no room for deviation. If it is micro-controllers or wheel-chocks, perfect product uniformity is a virtue. A worthwhile and honorable target.
But if production line conformity is not what you are payed for, then perhaps being different, and having different priorities, and even possibly entirely different thought processes, may provide an advantage.
You are perfectly free to hold your beliefs and march in lockstep with others of similar belief. That is your right, simply by virtue of being here. But understand that having the right to hold a belief DOES NOT: 1.assure that it is correct, and: 2. Does not mean that everybody else must hold and cherish that same belief.
My thought processes are also not the same as those people who write much of the code for Mr. Gates, whom many believe must be right because he is so very wealthy. My frequent challenges with his products are a clear indication that not everybody always thinks in the same channels. I am certain that some other folks will agree with that.
Just consider how boring this place would be if everybody always thought the same.
"One more question, which is why is it so very vital for others to hold priorities identical to your own?" - William K.
"If you want a person with as much creativity as an industrial robot, then hire an industrial robot. It will keep a work area very clean." - William K.
"In America we are free, which includes those who choose to follow the 5S religion. They have that right. Also, they have my pity. "- William K.
Ok, the "I'm a free American" card has been played so this must be serious. Shameless, but serious.
Please keep the American patriotism in your back pocket. Its a very transparent excuse to keep doing something with no intention of changing no matter how unpleasant or disrespectful it is...and Any Good American would respect that right.
Any business any of us work for in the USofA, if it has found any success at all, is not representation of the American ideal. Its probably not even a democracy. It's certainly not a republic or “free”, whatever that means. The most successfully business are dictatorships at best. Military States at the worst. So, am I correct in understanding then that an organization can't or shouldn't have standards, rules, or expectations for employees? And if there are any, they are an invasion of space and privacy and/or hamper creativity or are meant to create a workforce of mindless, identical automatons? Surely not. I continue to stand by the 5S principle as a way of fostering creativity and communication in a unified workforce that understands their organization's core values and mission statement and collectively work together, as individuals, to achieve excellence. And not allowing people to work in filth as a standard for any environment is not requiring people to hold priorities identical to my own. I do, however, feel sorry for the person that has to deal with the crap in these offices when something happens to the current resident.
As a business owner, if they allow every desk to look this way, and that is their acceptable standard, that's their business. In my organization Lean, and therefore 5S, has been identified as a critical issue. After working within the system for over a year, I truly believe in what the system means to do. But when it comes to the critical issue bit, I look at it like House Rules. If you don't like the house rules, go play cards somewhere else. Maybe some people don't mind if guests come over to their houses and put their shoes up on the couch and stack their crap on their dinner table. I hate to put it that way because it sounds so iron-fisted which is not how any of my 5S training is; it's open and collaborative and flexible and user driven. But the bottom line is that if an employee is so attached to their mess that their creativity is lost because their desk is cleaned off then I think they have issues that might need to be dealt with by a professional and if they simply refuse to identify with the organizations policies then, well...I wouldn't put up with my house rules being broken either. And I think that's very, very sad. Slop is not a requirement of creativity. If it were, ALL engineers and creative types would be that way and that simply isn't so. More than likely people with the "a messy desk is the sign of a genius" attitude have just let creative geniuses build messy habits because no on wanted to stir their crazy genius pot by making them consistently clean their crap up, because hey, their geniuses, right?
And please keep your pity. It's worthless and insulting to us creative types that have our s**t together and are forced to clean up after creative slobs, too.
If you want a person with as much creativity as an industrial robot, then hire an industrial robot. It will keep a work area very clean.
In America we are free, which includes those who choose to follow the 5S religion. They have that right. Also, they have my pity.
It happens that some of us just plain do not follow the same lockstep thought processes, and we are indeed a bit less "efficient". BUT if you are seeking efficiency, then by all means purchase the industrial robot.
If you are looking for somebody who routinely comes up with creative ideas that work, you may find that the ideal candidate is not a slave to the 5s mantra. The reality is that some of those who think differently, meaning creatively, also carry a bit of a different outlook in the rest of their existance.
One more question, which is why is it so very vital for others to hold priorities identical to your own? IT is possible for a 5s slave to come up with a good design, but they certainly do not come up with the good design because they are so very neat and orderly.
OF course, when an engineer does keep everything in perfect order it is much simpler for their replacement to pick up the task, which goes right along with the assertion that all engineers are interchangeable. My observation has been that the more ridgidly managers persue neatness, the less capable they have been to do anything else. Possibly you may have seen an exception, but I doubt it.
"The fact is that things can look a bit messy but still be quite organized, and the workflow is not slowed or misdirected. Fixating on neatness and having all ones pencils aligned is a sure sign of not understanding anything elase that is going on. " - William K.
If you think my post was about keeping pens and pencils in line then I contest that you didn't read a word of it.
I've heard similiar statements a thousand times from people that haven't gone through 5S. Please reread my oringal post and comment on my true fixations, not you're own fixations about what you think my fixations are. To clarify, my fixations are addressing and elminating the 7 wastes (transporation, inventory, motion, waiting, over-production, over-processing, & defects), quickly observing when something is missing or broken, succession planning in the short and long term, and maintaining a clean (as is not offering a space for bugs and rodents to thrive) workspace.
It's amazing the pushback we get from adults regarding concepts we all try to instill in our children. "Clean your room", "put it back where you got it", "trash goes in the bin", and "get rid of the toys you don't play with anymore" are all concepts I teach my 5 year old and he gets them all pretty well. At what age do engineers get to be worse than my son, again? I'm willing to bet that if you put that in the course catalogue as a professional benefit of being an engineer you'll get a hell of an upsurge in graduates with engineering degrees. Just sayin'.
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