Thursday, March 15, 2007

Some for Selling, Some for Keeping

The latest Newsweek has a huge special section on business matters, and the main piece is an article about the debate between organizers and those who embrace mess.

The mess-embracers (good name for a band? like the Pie Tasters?) are basically two guys, Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman, who wrote a book called A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder: How crammed closets, cluttered offices, and on-the-fly planning make the world a better place. It's a fun book in the way that Blink is a fun book: You get your analysis of a counter-intuitive idea and also some food for thought if you happen to run a business.

Anyway, the Newsweek reporter quotes some organizational experts who have fighting words about A Perfect Mess. "He's [sic] made it seem like we're all a bunch of neatniks, running out to clean up people's messes and tell them what bad people they are," the head of the National Association of Professional Organizers said. Now, the organizers say, almost three quarters of their clients are those who need help being more productive. Not so much those with the slobby houses.

There was a certain tone here from the organizers, I thought. Like, "We are performing A Very Important Business Function!" Like, "Back off, bitches--we're saving the economy!" Like, "Look at us, all up in the capitalist Zeitgeist!"

Oh, come on, mister. It's more like the market of people with personal messes dried up once they figured out they could drive their own asses to the Container Store.

When I was writing the book, Brandon worked for a huge international corporation. And, I swear to God, it seemed like every other month, he was at some training program or another learning how to be more effective, more productive, more in tune with his co-workers' working styles. It didn't seem to occur to anyone that a tense environment of lay-offs and downsizing might be not so great for the morale, productivity, or effectiveness.

Since I specialize in low-paying jobs, I haven't had first-hand experience with the business organizational gurus. But as a small business owner, it seems to me that all the productivity training in the world is going to be a bust if the employee is unhappy with her job. I think Abrahamson and Freedman touch on this in their book, but I sure would love it if someone, some business-book type, would reframe the discussion this way. I'd totally buy something that looked at the happiness of the average worker, and what's in it for the business. (Actually, there probably is something like this!)

Power to the People. I'm out.

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