You “suffer” from what psychologists now call “chronic disorganization.” But, what these psychologists also now tell us it that chronically disorganized people have higher intelligence and greater creativity. So, take heart, and the next time someone criticizes you for you disorganization, give them some facts to chew on. And here are 12 of those facts that demonstrate the high level of intellectual functioning of the chronically disorganized.
1). They score high on verbal IQ tests, often in the gifted range. IQ tests have two parts—verbal and performance. Verbal relates to areas of the brain that promote ideas, “global” thinking, curiosity, and “what if” questioning. The performance part of an IQ test assesses the ability to take factual information and manipulate it correctly—to apply it to situations, to see cause/effect correlations, and to comprehend step-by-step processes. Disorganized people tend to test well in the verbal range, because they can come up with unique solutions—they are not tied to the norms of current knowledge and traditional methods of doing things.
2). They have high creativity levels. There are actually several normed tests for creativity, the most well-known being the Torrance series. These tests, when given to individuals with chronic disorganization find that there are high scores in areas such as storytelling, unusual visualizations, humor, breaking normal boundaries, thinking “outside the box,” and a richness in the images that they create in their minds. According to the authors of the Torrance series, individuals who score high on the test battery are most often those who have the ideas for new products and services, who invent.
3). They have a broad range of interests. Disorganized people evidently need to be involved in a variety of activities simultaneously. They have regular jobs, perhaps, but they are always doing other things on the side—they may have a band; they may be taking art classes; they may be designing websites or landscaping; they may be writing a novel. The disorganized person loves the variety of new experiences and challenges. These are people who achieve great joy when they create something different and unique—an original recipe, a unique use for an ordinary object, or a software app that solves a problem.
4). They process information through their right brain hemispheres—the “creative” side. Disorganized people do not think in straight lines—one solution for one problem, use the factual information and apply it to new situations. This is linear thinking and that is a left-brain function. The right brain processor takes everything in at once and lets all of the ideas bounce off of one another in his mind, and it is in the continual “bouncing” that creative ideas come forth. The messy office or home, the inability to put things away in pre-determined paces, the jumping from one activity to another in no particular order, are all manifestations of the bouncing of ideas in the brain.
5). They develop strong attachments to often un-related things and people. The disorganized person, for reasons psychologists are as yet unable to fully determine, develops these strong attachments, especially to a wide range of objects and people with a large variety of personalities. Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss used the term “bricoleur” to describe these people. They see value in diversity, because diversity stimulates their mind activity. So, the disorganized person may have an eclectic group of friends and may even hoard some objects because they see so many possibilities for learning and doing. The work of Levi-Strauss is available online, as many of his books are now in PDF format, and easily downloadable if you’d like to learn more about the concept.
6). They want to be around high-energy people. People with high level of energy allow the disorganized person to meet the need for new experiences, to learn, and to satisfy curiosity. Because high-energy people always have something going on, the disorganized individual wants to be a part of those “somethings,” because there is the opportunity to have a new experience, to learn something new, to take what is learned and use it to generate new ideas. If you have not yet guessed it, the disorganized person is himself usually of very high energy. And the reason for the clutter and the mess? He doesn’t have time for such unimportant things.
7). They tend to lose track of time. In this life, there are appointments, there are meetings, and there are social occasions that are set up in advance. When the disorganized person is 30 minutes late to a family dinner, to a meeting, to a wedding, etc., it is because he has been engrossed in another activity(ies) that are fascinating and/or wildly interesting and is just in another “zone.” Time is linear and of less importance to this person. In the work environment, this individual may be late with a project deadline for what he believes is a very legitimate reason. He has become so fascinated with an aspect of the project that he has spent hours researching it, because there may be a better way. While this can be frustrating for a team of co-workers or a boss, the “better way” may in fact be a huge savings in time and money.
8). They have difficulty focusing when they are not interested or fascinated. Disorganized people often have difficulty in school, not because they lack intelligence, for clearly they do not. But if they are not interested in the Civil War or in a geometric proof, they will not spend the time required to master that content or skill. Our schools are filled with disorganized kids who have a need to be “sold” that something to be learned is of value. If teachers do not find creative ways to engage them, they “tune out” and their grades can show it. But give them a project that fascinates them, and watch them go. Instead of writing a research paper, they may want to write a play, and we should let them. Instead, we tend to medicate rather than accommodate them.
9). They are intuitive, extroverted, and feeling according to personality testing. A number of years ago, the Myers-Briggs personality test was formulated, and personality types were related to specific types of people. Disorganized people who take the Myers-Briggs test almost always score high in areas that, compiled, relate to a personality type identified as “visionary.” These people love a challenge and find inspiration in solving problems that others see as impossible. They are ingenious and often refuse to do a task in the standard manner. Visionaries want to try new methods.
10). They must be learning all the time. Chris Fields, a researcher and scientist from Stanford University has developed an in-depth profile of the disorganized personality. According to him, these individuals are “addicted to insight”—they have a compelling need to research and learn, as long as the subject matter is interesting to them. When they do reach an “aha” moment and there is a new insight or solution, they exhibit extreme euphoria. This “addiction” may cause them to challenge school or work authority and to appear to be argumentative. In fact, some new insight has caused them to see a “rule” or a traditional way of doing things as dumb.
11). They think globally. Global thinking was actually an educational psychology term before it became a term used to relate to the ever-shrinking “world” in which we live. The best way to describe this type of thinking on the part of disorganized people is through example. It is the night before Christmas and a number of toys need to be assembled before morning. The linear thinker will get out the instructions, and, step-by-step proceed through the assembly process. The global thinker will look at the picture of the finished product, and then assemble it based upon the picture. Both will probably be successful in the assembly (as long as there are no missing parts). It’s the approach that is totally different. The same thing goes for a planned trip. The linear thinker will make the lists and the reservations for along the way. The global thinker will just throw some items in a suitcase and head out, figuring out where to eat and sleep along the way. There is far more adventure in that.
12). They may seem “nerdy” or “know-it-all” to others. Disorganized people need to discover the truth and, in most instances, their own brand of truth. They may spend a lot of time with books and on the Internet. In school, they may be seen as nerds; to psychologists, they may be identified as having Asperger’s. They do not have a lot of patience for those who want to “follow the book” on everything. They research and think about how not to “follow the book” and are usually pretty committed to voicing their ideas and opinions—thus they can get a reputation for being a “know-it-all.”