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How clear is your desk?

Source | LinkedIn | Sue Unerman | MediaCom’s Chief Transformation Officer, author The Glass Wall, success strategies for women + businesses

Mine is perpetually cluttered. With apologies to those amongst us who love order above all things, I find it easier to work amongst an element of clutter. It seems to help my thinking and to drive cross pollination, an essential ingredient of creativity for me. 

There’s some personal items: photos of my family, objects with significant meaning including the mug that Kathryn Jacob (CEO of Pearl and Dean and my co-author for The Glass Wall) gave me which is too boastful to use, but holds my collection of pens, and a stapler that looks like a goldfish.

Many people have to have clear desks – its company policy. I’m lucky to have the option. There has long been a fashionable corporate idea that there should be no personal items on people’s desks. No photos, kids’ drawings, no mugs. It’s meant to add to everyone’s focus, eliminate distractions.

This wouldn’t have worked for me, particularly when I first returned from mat leave. Photos of my children were essential – without the photos I would have missed them much too much. 

In the MediaCom Connected Podcast we ask a series of regular questions including: “If your home fell down, every living person and thing is safely outside, and you were able to retrieve 3 personal items what would they be?” This question always reveals so much about our guest. 

Sometimes, occasionally, the guest of the show has absolutely no answer. These are the minimalists. Those people I would guess who would thrive with a clean desk policy. Bruce Dailey at Twitter, for example, couldn’t think of a single item he cared enough about. Mostly however, there’s a reply, often very moving, and usually about something that has personal and emotional value to the speaker.

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