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What Can We Learn From the Desks of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg?

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How a person leaves their office desk can tell you a lot about them.

Is it organized chaos, bursting with new plans and ideas to take the world by storm? Do sentimental photos of family and moments adorn the area surrounding the workspace? Is the desk organized, meticulously cleaned, and orderly?

The structure of a person’s work environment, along with the routines they use for enhancing productivity while at the office, can help give us insight on how they work best – and this becomes especially interesting when we look at the strategies and tactics used by some of the world’s most extraordinary people.

Famous Desks and What We Can Learn

Today’s infographic comes from the Pens.com, and it highlights the work habits, routines, and desks from extraordinary people like Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway, Arianna Huffington, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Let’s see what we can take away from these examples:

What Can We Learn From the Desks of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg?

Each approach above is unique – and each set of tactics helps that extraordinary person in getting closer to reaching their objective.

Lessons from the Greats

Here are some of our favorite lessons that we thought were the most tangible:

Mark Zuckerberg
Consistent with his grey t-shirt and jeans approach to his wardrobe, Zucks also keeps his workspace simple. He doesn’t have an office, and instead works with the same desk setup as every other Facebook employee.

Lesson: As a leader, the way you dress and set up your work environment also communicates your values to the organization and the outside world. Mark Zuckerberg keeps his environment simple to help him focus on the bigger problems, and this vision shines through crystal clear to inspire the people around him.

Elon Musk
At the Tesla office, Elon Musk set his desk up at the end of the Model X assembly line so he could personally inspect each finished vehicle.

Lesson: When doing something bold and visionary, there must be constant attention to detail to ensure that the end product meshes with the vision. Elon could have put his desk somewhere with a nice view, or in a corner office. Instead, by setting up his desk in this strategic position, it gave him assurance that the vehicles coming off the line were going to meet his uncompromising quality standards.

Albert Einstein
Einstein believed that cluttered desks were the sign of a cluttered brain, with lots of things going on. As such, he wondered what was going on in the brains of people with perfectly tidy workspaces!

Einstein also thought that combining unrelated concepts to generate new, creative ideas was a secret of genius.

Lesson: Studies have shown that messy desks are linked to creativity – something that Einstein needed when solving “outside the box” physics problems like relativity.

Arianna Huffington
For anyone that has read her book, Sleep Revolution, it’s clear Arianna Huffington believes that people are generally quite sleep-deprived. For these reasons, she encourages naps to boost productivity in the workplace.

Lesson: Arianna Huffington has “owned” the discussion around sleep, and how proper habits can help with work productivity. It’s no surprise she walks the talk, as well.

Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway thought he did his best work standing up, and he also kept a tally of his daily word count in front of him.

Lesson: While studies show working while standing up can enhance productivity by 10% – more importantly, Hemingway did what works best for him, even though it was unconventional. He also knew that monitoring his most important KPI, and keeping that metric right in front of him, would allow him to best gauge his progress on achieving his vision.

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Politics

Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Türkiye0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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