Einstein: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Mark Twain. What is one thing these three visionaries have in common?
They all had very messy workspaces.
Mark Twain and his desk. Image source:Office Snapshots
These three game-changers were never ones to follow the crowd, and always enjoyed doing things their own way. We can see this by how unconventionally disorganized their desks are. There was a method to this madness: under the mass of papers, magazines, and various objects, there is a sense of organization only the creator can operate through.
Here are some other creative powerhouses that have messy desks:Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook hard at work on product. Image source:TipherethTony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, with everything ranging from books on culture to cowboy hats.. Image source: ComplexMax Levchin, co-founder and former CTO of PayPal. Image source: Complex
Other notable creatives with astonishingly messy desks include programmer and codebreaker Alan Turing, discoverer of penicillin Alexander Fleming, as well as painter Francis Bacon.
Environments have historically played a major factor in how creative our minds are. For example, when he was trying to create the first polio vaccine, medical researcher and virologist Jonas Salk went to the monastery at the Basilica of Assisi in Umbria, Italy and explained in his later days that this environment change helped contribute to the discovery. It doesn’t necessarily take such a massive change to prompt creativity; rather, the key to a more creative state of mind can be found right at our desks.