The bottom line on being messy

They say a tidy desk is a tidy mind - but do you need either to run a successful business? Or can a down and dirty approach sometimes help you clean up? That was the big debate on the Bottom Line this week.

Most of us seem to think that successful people have a clear vision - and a clear desk. If we go past an office overflowing with papers and books, we don't expect it to be the managing director's. But we also associate messiness with creativity - and successful business leaders usually need plenty of that.

I asked each of my guests which camp they belonged to. They were all men who had started their own businesses: Richard Harpin, chief executive of emergency home repairs business Homeserve; Nick Wheeler, founder and chairman of shirt company Charles Tyrwhitt (pronounced 'Tirritt'); and Charles Cohen, chief executive of mobile gaming company Probability.

You may have seen Probability in the news recently: his company has been approached by the High Street bookmakers, William Hill. A decision is due any day now.

Funnily enough, Nick Wheeler, a man who has devoted his entire working life to making British men look smarter, was the only one to own up to a messy desk. (And his wife, Chrissie Rucker, founded The White Company. Go figure.) But Wheeler didn't like messy solutions to problems. Not at all. The other two guests - who also founded their own companies - had exactly the opposite view. It seems that tidy minds and tidy desks don't necessarily go together, after all.

We also had a fascinating discussion of the fine art of marketing. It's well worth a listen on Radio 4 at 20.30 on Thursday. Or you can catch up with the television version on the iPlayer.