Make My Meeting Messy, Please!

Are you being blamed for having a messy desk and growing wild mushrooms in the windowsill? Then here are some good news.

A study from the University of Minnesota has shown, that people become more creative, if they are working in a messy environment. One of the researchers Kathleen Vohs says: “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” Vohs concludes. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”


Rooms used in the research experiments.

These findings raise some important questions for meeting and event planners:

  • How good are we at supporting creativity in meetings and conferences, when most meeting and event planners are obsessed with order and symmetry?
  • According to the World Economic Forum creativity is one of the top skills we need to learn and empower in the future. So how do we design meetings that facilitates and train this skill?

Pesonally I believe, that to nurture creativity is not about just creating a mess, but more about creating complexity. A good example is nature. In a beautiful landscape with mountains, lakes and forests you have high complexity. Billions of small elements integrated in a nonlinear way. Everyone thinks nature is inspiring and beautiful, even though it’s a bit messy. In my opinon an inspiring meeting room should look the same. Many props and details integrated in a nonlinear way. More Gaudi and less Apple. My brain get bored and unispred in a room with only order and straight lines.

So what can you do:

  • Use props and materials that can inspire participanst to cocreate.
  • Use art and beautiful things, which are inspiring and nonlinear.
  • Make the room imperfect. Don’t be afraid of mess and mistakes, it’s an open invitation to participants to be creative.
  • Avoid to many straight lines and too much symmetry.

The main lesson to be learned from the study from University of Minnesota is, that the environment shapes our thinking. The study also showed, that participants in an orderly room choose healthier snacks and donated more money. So know the meetings objectives and design the room accordingly.


Vohs, D. Kathleen, Redden, P. Joseph & Rahinel, Ryan. Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity

Tidy Desk or Messy Desk? Each Has Its Benefits. Online article in Association for psychological science.

Schöning, Mirjam & Witcomb, Christina. This is the one skill your child needs for the jobs of the future. World Economic Forum.


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