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A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder -- How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-The-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Placeby Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman
Synopses & Reviews
A groundbreaking book that sheds new light on ideas of order — and shows how chaos, disorder, and mess make our world a better place!
Like Freakonomics, here is a book that combines counterintuitive thinking with stories from everyday life to provide a striking new view of how our world works. Ever since Einstein's study of Brownian Motion, scientists have understood that a little disorder actually makes 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 anecdotes and case studies of the useful role mess can play, here is an antidote to the accepted wisdom that tight schedules, 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 Abrahamson and Freedman demonstrate that moderately messy systems use resources more efficiently, yield better solutions, and are harder to break than neat ones.
A Perfect Mess will help readers assess what the right amount of disorder is for a given system, and how to apply these ideas onto a large scale — government, society — and on a small scale — in your attic, kitchen, or office. A Perfect Mess will forever change the way we think about those unruly heaps of paper on our desks.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A certain messiness probably should be expected in this book, and overall it is a provocative read." Seattle Times
"[As] with Freakonomics and Gladwell's books, the attempt is both thought-provoking and fun." San Francisco Chronicle
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.
Combining business, science, history, and psychology, this groundbreaking book sheds new light on ideas of order and shows how chaos, disorder, and mess make the world a better place.
About the Author
David H. Freedman is the author of three books, and is a business and science journalist who has written for The Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, and Wired, among others. He lives in Massachusetts.
Eric Abrahamson is a professor of management at Columbia University's School of Business, and author of Change Without Pain. He lives in New York.
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