My favorite place to work is a noisy, busy coffee shop, specifically, the Intelligentsia in Silver Lake. It’s never not busy, there are always a flood of trust fund kids, yippy dudes with beards writing their screenplays, and the occasional asian tourist snapping photos of the beautifully done Barbara Bestor designed space. Yet with this flood of noise and distraction it’s really the place where I feel like I can focus. The noise to me acts as an enveloping blanket, allowing me to focus singularly on the task in front me.
Thankfully I’m not alone in my admiration for ambience as this 99U piece points out the benefits of noise and how it increases creativity.
Specifically, they separated the participants into four groups and asked all four groups to complete a Remote Associates Test, a commonly used test of creative thinking that asks test-takers to find the relationship between a series of words that appear unrelated. Each of the groups was subjected to a different level of background noise (50 decibels, 70 decibels, 85 decibels, and total silence). When they scored each person’s test, the researchers found that those in the 70 decibel group, exposed to a moderate level of ambient noise, significantly out-performed those in the other three groups. The background noise boosted their creative thinking.
I like that they also included some ambient noise apps as well in case it might be, you know, like midnight and your local coffee shop is closed.