“Utterly fascinating. Tim Harford shows that if you want to be creative and resilient, you need a little more disorder in your world.” —Adam Grant, New York Times-bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take
“Engrossing.” —New York Times
From the award-winning columnist and author of the national bestseller The Undercover Economist comes a provocative big idea book about the genuine benefits of being messy: at home, at work, in the classroom, and beyond.
Look out for Tim's next book, The Data Detective.
Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives celebrates the benefits that messiness has in our lives: why it’s important, why we resist it, and why we should embrace it instead. Using research from neuroscience, psychology, social science, as well as captivating examples of real people doing extraordinary things, Tim Harford explains that the human qualities we value – creativity, responsiveness, resilience – are integral to the disorder, confusion, and disarray that produce them.
From the music studio of Brian Eno to the Lincoln Memorial with Martin Luther King, Jr., from the board room to the classroom, messiness lies at the core of how we innovate, how we achieve, how we reach each other – in short, how we succeed.
In Messy, you’ll learn about the unexpected connections between creativity and mess; understand why unexpected changes of plans, unfamiliar people, and unforeseen events can help generate new ideas and opportunities as they make you anxious and angry; and come to appreciate that the human inclination for tidiness – in our personal and professional lives, online, even in children’s play – can mask deep and debilitating fragility that keep us from innovation.
Stimulating and readable as it points exciting ways forward, Messy is an insightful exploration of the real advantages of mess in our lives.
Journalist Harford (The Undercover Economist) explores the counterintuitive theory that disorder is at the heart of innovation. His evidence includes the creative genius inspired by the randomness of record producer Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies and the rich history of MIT's hastily assembled Building 20. In the business world, Amazon's Jeff Bezos is extolled for the risk taking that carried the company through the dot-com bust. The book also examines what goes wrong in a system that is too organized. Examples include time-wasting email folders, misconceived methods for evaluating physicians' competence, and the horrifying results of "the paradox of automation" when a pilot can't remember how to respond in an emergency due to overreliance on automated operating systems. The book takes readers to some unexpected and entertaining places, including sarcastic corporate social-media accounts, chess strategy, and online-dating algorithms. Harford provides useful and specific instructions on putting his thesis to work, with tips on organizing projects, building an effective team, and honing improvisational skills. Weaving together lessons from history, art, technology, and social and scientific research, Harford's theories have many potential benefits for individuals and businesses seeking to remain on the creative cutting edge, as well as profound implications for society.