Tangible items help inspire. The kinds of eclectic things inhabiting my desk right now. A hermetically sealed
6.3V 400Hz filament transformer. A 400 Hz synchro. An ohmite ceramic rheostat. A handful of proto boards. An AFL27005S thick film hybrid DC/DC converter (Lambda Adv Analog now IR). A plasma ball. A disassembled GPS navigator awaiting a fix. A couple of stud mount diodes (400V, 250A). Plastic box with miscellaneous resistors and capacitors. Some ferrite cores of various sizes and materials. A couple reels of SM caps. A 150 amp current shunt. A Red Lion Controls counter.
And that's just what I can see. :-)
I think a lot of it has to do with filing systems and accessibility. A big flat space where nothing is more than a layer deep is a pretty time efficient filing method. However, it's not very space efficient; hence the messy desk.
I'm guessing the desk will take a two week path from clean to messy, with the time increasing or decreasing based on the number and size of tools and parts needed during that time period.
Keeping a clean desk just to have a clean desk is a non-value-add activity, (IMHO).
However, if a desk gets messy enough to inhibit design or other activities then the desk/work area should be cleaned up...
I once had a sign above my desk; "A clean desk is a sign of a misguided career."
Any time I have tried to keep a clean desk I can't find anything. Let it me and I know where to find things. Basically I work best with an archeological filing system - the further back when I last worked on it the deeper in the pile it is. I do keep a "common work" area free and always available though.
Years ago, while an engineer at IBM I got in some trouble after posting the sign "A Clean Lab is an UNUSED Lab" during a forced lab cleanup for a management walk through. I was upset because I had to disassemble a working test system, and then had to rebuild it from scratch, starting a few minutes after the walk through!
I worked for a company in the 90s that adopted some silly management concept of changing things just for the sake of change because "it would increase productivity". Everybody's office got relocated except mine. I found out years later that a director had said that they would have moved my office also but it would have shut the company down for 6 months. Now that is messiness of legendary proportions.
I had an archeological filing system with a slope towards the front of my tables. When stuff started falling off the front of the table I would SELF-IMPOSE a cleanup of sorts.
There was a time (before e-mail) when my in-tray would become so overloaded, that I would take a large envelope - stuff it - and mail it to myself (through internal mail)... It would usually take 2 days to return to me, giving me time to sort out the remainder of the contents in my tray...
Years ago, I found that a clean desk can be a detriment! While working in the test lab at Harris, we had a quota of so many pieces of equipment to calibrate each week. Unfortunately, at that time a Simpson 260 was worth as many points as a spectrum analyzer! (System later balanced out to a dollar per dollar system) So, the name of the game was to rush out on Monday morning and grab as many Simpson 260s due for calibration as possible. If one was successful, he could have half his quota by noon Monday.
So, one Friday, I cleaned up my desk spotlessly clean, and everything put away and organized so I'd have a running start Monday.
Come in Monday morning, and there on my desk was the awfullest pile of Junk I'd ever seen!! And the boss by the desk: "So and so in such and such department no longer needs any of this stuff, sort through it and see if there's anything we can use!"
Needless to say, quota not met that week.
A clean desk attracts others' junk.
Always reply with the following "Did you hire an Engineer or a house keeper?" Engineers solve dozens of issues a day and leave parts of projects spreadout over several tables and desks. If you move anything you sabotage the project, leave the mess alone.
I used to work at a company, Methode, and we got a new area manager whose forte was accounting and sales, not even close on engineering. He decided to start weekly clean cube audits because the Japanese engineering offices were so clean. First they got rid of the messy cubes, then all of the really creative engineers left about the same time that the new manager announced that we had too many engineers, so we would be getting rid of a few, if we needed more we would just hire them because they are all the same. I am not certain exactly what business they are in presently. But the cubes are neat.
Methode has expanded overseas, but the Golden, Illinois plant has been sold to a company that tiles fields, and Carthage reduced to apx 100. I retired after 22 years there, in test equipment design and fabrication.
This kind of article is on the verge of trolling. Being an embedded engineer I have on the average use about three desk tops of “junk” (comprising of a mix of parts, cares, cables, and test equipment that looks like spaghetti piles). The fun part is when you have an office mentality that everyone can equally fit into a nice 4’x8’ cubical with a pair of compsci code monkeys in a paperless office. The boss breezes by and turns up his nose and asks why you cannot be as organized as the rest of the Spartan black turtlenecks or make everything look FOA pretty. The manager thinks this engineer guy does not deserve this big room that rivals his and if that guy was to get organized and reduce, he could fit into one of those authorized 4’x4’ cubicles. I notice by the picture there is a radiant heater. This I have seen before because it means the “messy” arcane engineer is likely shoved into the corner basement where there is no heat while all the FOA workers are in the nicer areas so the boss can proudly show them off. I also see lots of parts, starter kits, manuals, spare computers, lab equipment, microscope, several working computers, special software, couple old desks (no fancy glass/stainless ones or fancy chairs), and drawers of drawings. Sure you can get rid of the things you are not currently using and spend days or weeks reordering when needed. You can’t download a transistor, cable, or demo board in a few seconds. Then there is the priority to get things to work then worry about esthetics. With deadlines looming, esthetics goes out the window. When all is said and done, man-agers cannot turn a wild game sausage maker into a clean room bunny suit jockey. Alas, they try and whimper at the results.
No radiant heater, FL Just doesn't seem to need it :-) If you look at my desk in the original article, it was in the main office, next to ceiling to floor windows, back in the corner where Accounting(owner's wife) didn't have direct line of vision :-). The conspicuous lack of windows was My personal choice, but the ability to "hide away" and not get pestered with production issues has been a blessing. I'm actually finding time to be an engineer again. At least I have the advantage of working for an ME and a MaterialsE. They're quite understanding of the design process.
Around 30 yrs ago my first job out of college was at a big R&D lab. During my first year a manager of a related group came into my cramped office and saw how messy it was. He said something like "It's been proven that the most productive engineers have the neatest desks". This worried me for a long time, until I happened to visit HIS office about a year later. It looked like someone had upended a dumpster in it. I later found out this guy had a very droll sense of humor and was just pulling my leg. My desk still looks like a mess, by the way.
I wonder what Dave Kress' desk of Analog Devices looks like these days? Back in Dec, I could see his forehead above the stacks of papers on his desk. Has anyone checked on him lately? Judging by his desk, he is way past genius level.
My first experience with someone who managed to leave their desk clean each night impressed me until I caught him dumping the contents into his adjacent filing cabinet before leaving for the day.
Pre email days, a colleague had a three tier in-tray with the tiers labelled "In", "Still In" and "Laugh and Tear Up".
"A clean desk is a sure sign of an empty mind"
I was interviewing years ago; the chief engineer was giving me a tour after chatting in his office when I used this line. Then I thought OMG what did his desk look like? Back in his office, I was relieved to see a pleasantly messy desk. Got the job.