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A cluttered desk is a sign of genius

My dad used to have a sign on his desk, I remember it well. His office in Kings Cross, an amazing space that had a doorway built in to a set of cupboards, revealing a hidden staircase that would take you downstairs to a second space, shared with my uncle – an accountant – and with papers everywhere, a slight musty smell and the excitement of “the stair case” (plus with his white beard and balding head he looked a little like Santa)… think old professors office from the movies and easy to see whyI used to like going to visit. They also happened to have a really good instant hot chocolate machine – although that made me pee a lot…..anyway,

On his desk, a big old oak thing that was removed from one of the properties the company managed, were all the usual mod cons of a 1980’s office – big computer, big printer, lots and lots of old style printer paper, pens (always lots of pens) etc, etc, etc – and the sign….a triangular gold plated sign that sat proudly at the front of the desk, all be it usually on something – “a cluttered desk is a sign of genius”. I remember the sign (although to be fair it adorns his current desk too) and for some reason both the setting and the saying itself have stuck with me through the years and been quoted over and over and over. Who am I to suggest that the space the saying takes up in my brain couldn’t have been better used on a famous saying for Chorsa or Aristotle – but at the end of the day, I think I can probably manage both.

So, events, a world where everything has it’s place, where the finest details can mean the difference between success and disaster – one number in the wrong place, one place with the wrong number on it – and suddenly, “the wedding day is ruined” and your DJ is running two hours late… there a place in the events world for cluttered desks, or for that matter, genius?

My other favourite film character was Doc Brown, Emmet – think Back to the Future….and that scene in the beginning of the first film, as the clocks all chime in unison – what seems like cluttered madness, actually forming in some way a proof and basis to a plot strand on which the entire series of films stood. I am not suggesting of course that there is a comparison between mad professors and event managers, but in some ways……

We all have to deal with a lot, different sets of details for different clients – some remarkably the same, but different, some totally different and yet very much the same – as an event manager, you may feel the format of a wedding is similar to that which you did last week, for the client it is their one off and there is therefore, no leeway to be out of sync with what is going on, or make assumptions that not writing something down is ok, because you have “stored” it in your memory vaults.

I can’t profess to be a neat freak – although when the moment takes me…..last weekend the kids and I emptied the entire kitchen, top to bottom, cleaned, tidied, boxed up, threw out – and to be fair it looks amazing – the same is sometimes true of my desk. I don’t know what it is, but as soon as it’s tidy, the next set of papers make their way magically on to the space recently vacated by their sister papers, and plop themselves down. Oh, I know I know where everything is, but to the average “looker inner”, it can seem a little all over the place.

Like most things, how you manage your own space is up to you – I am not a guru of all things neat, and certainly not going to tell you how to manage day to day desk space. What is clear however, that for so many reasons, both tracking of previous events, up to date information of current goings on – the iPad, the touch screen, pods, tablets and wi-fi – paper is almost obsolete – or could be, what does exist nowadays is the ability to pull together so much information, and carry an entire file of months and months of work, around in the palm of your hand. By all means find your own way, neat or otherwise – what I think we can all agree on, is that for a really good creative – there is always that special sprinkling of genius.


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