I like clean environments. Especially my work environment. Everything has its place and I prefer to have a certain amount of structure within my life. On the flip side, I have discovered that most entrepreneurial pursuits are not clean, they’re messy to some extent. This is an ongoing conflict I have within myself as an entrepreneur.
Consider a lab environment. A lab environment within a large established corporation is usually meticulously clean and orderly. Everything has its place. There are processes for everything. Equipment is usually the latest and greatest, but there are usually constraints imposed on this equipment and its users within the organization.
Now contrast this to the work environment of an entrepreneur. In the beginning, the entrepreneur is normally operating lean – they may begin working around a kitchen table, a garage, or some other makeshift workspace. The work environment is often characterized by a certain amount of “messiness” – disorganization, disorder, and sometimes outright chaos. Nothing has it’s place, or any permanence for that matter, and processes most likely are non-existent. As a product is developed, product/market fit discovered, and a repeatable business model proven – more resources are available to the entrepreneur – things become cleaner, the product(s) becomes a company, and formal processes are put into place as employees join the entrepreneur. This neatness comes at a price, which is a lessening ability to innovate as greater controls are put into place. It’s a tradeoff of habit versus awareness.
A certain amount of messiness is fundamental to innovation. Not too much, not too little, perhaps just bordering on the edge of chaos. Messiness is one of the reasons why established companies often have a difficult time competing with new entrants and opt to purchase these companies, along with their new products, technologies, and employees instead of developing disruptive technologies on their own. The very things that make a company efficient at executing an existing business model are the very same things that hinder disruptive innovation.