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A Perfect Mess
Cover of A Perfect Mess
A Perfect Mess
The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place
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Ever since Einstein's study of Brownian Motion, scientists have understood that a little disorder can actually make systems more effective. But most people still shun disorder-or suffer guilt over the mess they can't avoid. No longer!With a spectacular array of true stories and case studies of the hidden benefits of mess,A Perfect Mess overturns the accepted wisdom that tight schedules, organization, neatness, and consistency are the keys to success. Drawing on examples from business, parenting, cooking, the war on terrorism, retail, and even the meteoric career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, coauthors Abrahmson and Freedman demonstrate that moderately messy systems use resources more efficiently, yield better solutions, and are harder to break than neat ones.Applying this idea on scales both large (government, society) and small (desktops, garages), A Perfect Mess uncovers all the ways messiness can trump neatness, and will help you assess the right amount of disorder for any system. Whether it's your company's management plan or your hallway closet that bedevils you, this book will show you why to say yes to mess.
Ever since Einstein's study of Brownian Motion, scientists have understood that a little disorder can actually make systems more effective. But most people still shun disorder-or suffer guilt over the mess they can't avoid. No longer!With a spectacular array of true stories and case studies of the hidden benefits of mess,A Perfect Mess overturns the accepted wisdom that tight schedules, organization, neatness, and consistency are the keys to success. Drawing on examples from business, parenting, cooking, the war on terrorism, retail, and even the meteoric career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, coauthors Abrahmson and Freedman demonstrate that moderately messy systems use resources more efficiently, yield better solutions, and are harder to break than neat ones.Applying this idea on scales both large (government, society) and small (desktops, garages), A Perfect Mess uncovers all the ways messiness can trump neatness, and will help you assess the right amount of disorder for any system. Whether it's your company's management plan or your hallway closet that bedevils you, this book will show you why to say yes to mess.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 16, 2006
    The premise of this pop business book should generate reader goodwill—who won't appreciate being told that her messy desk is "perfect"? But despite their convincing defense of sloppy workstations, Columbia management professor Abrahamson (Change Without Pain
    ) and author Freedman (Corps Business
    , etc.) squander their reader's indulgence by the end. Their thesis is solid enough: that organizational efforts tend to close off systems to random, unplanned influences that might lead to breakthroughs. But too many of the book's vaguely counterintuitive examples—to cite just one, that Ultimate Fighting is actually less injurious than boxing—stray from the central theme, giving their argument a shapeless, meandering feel. The authors prefer sprawling Los Angeles to fastidiously designed Paris and natural landscaping to lawns, decry clutter consultants, tight scheduling and "the bias towards neatness programmed into most of us." Noting that "organizations can be messy in highly useful ways," they urge companies to scrap long-term strategic planning, make contracts flexible and relinquish control over some processes. The advice is good and the arguments intriguing, and the book will probably be widely cited by those who have always resented neatniks. Too bad it's, well, such a mess.

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2006
    Business and science journalist Freedman teams with Abrahamson (management, Sch. of Business, Columbia Univ.; "Change Without Pain") to pen a book that scores of "messy" people will embrace. From books like Stephanie Winston's "The Organized Executive" to popular reality shows like "Mission: Organization" (HGTV), the message that clutter is bad and that a neat and orderly life is the way to success and happiness is today the accepted norm in American culture. The authors propose a different hypothesis, demonstrating that in many instances messy systems are actually much more cost-effective and productive than highly organized ones. Drawing on case studies and anecdotal accounts, the authors recount numerous examples wherein messiness yields more creativity, new discoveries, an element of surprise, superior multitasking ability, and the ability to respond more quickly to changing circumstances. The engaging and refreshing alternative views they offer make this a book of interest to public libraries and universities with popular business collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/06.]Crystal Renfro, Lib. & Information Ctr., Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta

    Copyright 2006 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Perfect Mess
A Perfect Mess
The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place
Eric Abrahamson
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