Tidy desk, tidy mind?

There are two schools of thought about tidy people.

There are two schools of thought about tidy people.

There are two schools of thought about tidy people.

For some, a well-organised desk is a sign of a well-organised person, someone who is always one step ahead, a paragon of efficiency for whom handling complex tasks is child’s play.

Others believe that an immaculate workspace conceals a rather sinister attitude to life: it’s a mark of someone who is joyless, borderline-fascistic, who has trouble descending to the level of ordinary, messy humanity.

From talking to entrepreneurs and observing them in action, I don’t imagine many of them have ultra-tidy desks. Certainly not Tim Smit, founder and mastermind behind Cornwall’s Eden Project, who once told me, ‘I loathe the word focus.’ Smit is well-known for his energy, enthusiasm, the breadth of his vision and imagination, his willingness to take risks. In this respect, he’s the archetypal entrepreneur. (I haven’t seen his desk so I apologise in advance if it’s spotless. Someone probably tidies it for him.)

Come to think of it, I struggle to think of a single business founder who has told me that being well-organised is the key to his or her success. I don’t mean to imply that entrepreneurs are sloppy, forgetful, mad professor types – although some certainly are. But ruthless efficiency isn’t a quality many pride themselves on. You need well-organised people in your team, certainly, but do they make good leaders of growing businesses?

Too much organisation can be a bad thing, especially for a fast-growing venture. Unchecked, it quickly turns into bureaucracy, where processes that were designed to be helpful are adhered to simply for their own sake, or so someone can have an easier life.

Equally, people who are ultra-organised can have trouble adapting to sudden changes in carefully laid plans, or working with those whose approach is more fluid.

Such people might make excellent surgeons or accountants, but probably not great entrepreneurs.

Nick Britton

Lexus Ernser

Nick was the Managing Editor for growthbusiness.co.uk when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

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