I was at work last week and somebody said to me, "They've been told to clean up their desks on the other side. They've heard the research that associates a cluttered desk with higher productivity, but lately the pendulum has swung the other way and more and more bosses have said they don't care what it signifies, they want to see the desks cleaned up."
I told him,"You know, I have a funny feeling if we went to the homes of people with cluttered desks, we'd find their homes looked the same way. We'd probably find that the homes of employees with neat desks had their homes neatly laid out as well."
We both had a big laugh.
Then I said "You know, I bet if we went back around 40,000 years in the family lines of people with messy desks, we'd find that the caves of their ancestors had a cluttered appearance much the same way."
Weird look ... then we both had a big laugh.
I said "So you were saying you were familiar with the research that clearly shows people with messy desks tend to do more work and solve more problems than their colleagues, right? So how do you explain bosses who are less interested in what the evidence says and more interested in appearances? That's a kind of failure at problem solving, right? Namely, how to hire and retain people who get more work done? That is their role as a manager, after all. It's almost as if they'd forgotten altogether what the subject was to begin with."
Weird look. Thinking a bit about it. Shrug.
"So if intuition in one line of genes pushes for certain kinds of disorganization whereas the larger majority push for certain kinds of organization even if it doesn't solve problems, we would probably be right in assuming that mankind is divided into two kinds of people - people who can solve problems and those who can't, because of the way they reason about the world."
Shrug. Uncomfortable shuffling. Knit brows. Shrug.
"If their ancestral caves were also cluttered and the neat freaks had caves that were much neater going back 40,000 years, we could safely say we were looking at some kind of speciation, couldn't we? That's a fundamental difference in temperaments."
Shrug. Shrug-shrug. Frown. Shrug.
"What if we could trace back the messy bunch over 400,000 years and find sloppy haphazard caves going back twenty ice ages or more? We'd definitely be able to describe the messy problem solvers as a separate class of mankind, right? What do you think?"
Shrug. "I dunno. I forgot what we were talking about."
Then we both went back to work. I at my messy desk, he at his neat organized one.
Two species of man, mixed together like oil and water, in the same gene pool.