Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform our Lives (2016) by Tim Harford praises disorder in getting things done and being creative. Harford is an excellent economics writer and the presenter of More or Less, a number checking radio show and podcast.
First Harford describes how messiness, disorder and surprise help in creativity and talks about how Brian Eno made musicians do things unexpectedly. Teams are next with a foray into the brilliance of Paul Erdos and how diverse teams do better than teams of similar people. Workplaces where serendipitous meetings happen and the futility of tidy desks make the next chapter. Improvisation and Martin Luther King then get a run.
The virtue of holding the initiative with unexpected boldness, personified by Rommel is then added into the mix. Problems with targets for performance and the way people handle then are then described. The perils of automation and the crash of Air France 447 and the problems with relying on ordered systems are also described. Harford finally describes how calendars can be a prison, how there simply isn’t a perfect formula for a perfect match and why we should value a bit of disorder in our conversation and that kids should play in a world with sufficient mess in order to become more resilient and more creative.
It’s well written but as in Adapt the book doesn’t quite hang together with a particularly strong thesis. Then again for a book about mess this is probably fine. It’s a fun read and any ‘loyal listeners’ out there would definitely enjoy it.