I am reminded of how Action Research (http://goo.gl/73vmSD), as a participatory form of inquiry by and for a community of practice, differs from methods that privilege the view of an (outside, ‘objective’) investigator.
Regarding how much mess we can handle, and our different preferences/needs for pathways and help with navigation, there has been much in the media lately (or maybe it’s just catching my attention) about how the teenage and young adult brain is still developing. Consequently, differences in our need for order, and our ability to calculate risk and make decisions that will have ramifications in the future, may depend more on our age than we previously thought (http://goo.gl/GE2WTA). For those of us over 21, differences in our tolerance/preference for messiness are to be expected. These differences have been part of an ongoing discussion in cMOOCs about free range and informal learning v.s. the more ordered, prescribed path that is more common in formal education.
Many people develop their own techniques and strategies for leveraging both the potential of messiness and disorder, and the benefits of more directed, prescribed approaches. Perhaps this shows, once again, the need for us to work at paying attention to how we are paying attention (thinking about Howard Rheingold here), and to step back and think about when it helps to allow things to be messy, and when it helps to put things in order.