"A cluttered environment fosters innovation," reports Kathleen D. Vohs in The New York Times (9/15/13). Kathleen is a University of Minnesota marketing professor who conducted two studies supporting her conclusion. In the first study, the laboratory was "arranged to look either tidy … or messy." A total of 188 adults were invited in for a visit, with each "assigned to either a messy or tidy room." Each "was shown a menu" of three fruit smoothies. In one version of the menu the word "classic" highlighted one of three smoothies, while on the other menu the word "new" promoted the very same smoothie.
Those in the tidy room chose the "classic" smoothie "almost twice" as often as the other two choices, while those in the messy room selected "new" more than twice as often. "Thus, people greatly preferred convention in the tidy room and novelty in the messy room." In a second experiment, also conducted in messy and tidy rooms, subjects were asked to come up with new uses for a Ping-Pong ball. Subjects came up with "about the same number of ideas" but those in the messy room rated more highly in creativity, as determined by "an independent panel of judges."
For example, tidy room ideas included things like Beer Pong (not a new idea) while those in the messy room came up with things like ice-cube trays. "Not only were their ideas 28 percent more creative, on average," but messy room subjects "came up with almost five times the number of highly creative responses as did their tidy-room counterparts." These results were further supported by a similar messy/tidy study conducted at Northwestern University. Kathleen suggests that these results may have implications for the "minimalist design trend in office spaces" where shared desks and the like make it harder to make a mess.