Book Notes: A Perfect Mess

As I related in the previous entry, I spent some time at the library reading. Most notably: A Perfect Mess. The basic premise of the book is that a certain amount of disorganization is actually adaptive, efficient and beneficial. And, organizing may actually be counter-productive in terms of the energy required to stay organized. What a relief this is for disorganized people. I have noticed that it takes a lot of energy to keep things neat when it would actually be better to just accept a nominal amount of disorder so you can focus on more important things.

I took a few notes you might find interesting:

  1. “Office messiness tends to increase sharply with increasing education, increasing salary, and increasing experience.”
  2. On the questionable value of Jack Welch-ian strategic planning: “Managers import a raft of poor assumptions into the planning process…” Which results in useless or unfounded ‘planning’.
  3. On comfort noise: Telephone engineers actually add a certain amount of background noise to telephone and especially cellphone conversations because people find total silence in conversation unnatural and confusing. Users hate the complete absence of background noise. “Adding background noise to telephone calls signifies presence.” Read more about ITU recommendation G.711.II.
  4. On randomness and noise as a fundamental concept of existence. Example Brownian motion.
  5. “Disorder creates connections.” Mess-driven invention.
  6. Rather than focus on terrorist leaders, FBI / CIA focus on the productive nodes: “In a disorganized network the nodes in the middle carry the greatest workload.”
  7. The cost of neatness: “Being neat requires constant expenditure of resources.”
  8. Robustness of disorder: “Messy systems are more resistant.” Loosely woven.
  9. The popular Noguchi file system is simply a pile shifted on its side. More frequently used items work their way to the front, just as in a pile. In other words, piles are intuitive expressions of higher order.
  10. Messy environments provide useful cues.

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