The Noise to Innovation Ratio

I hate quiet work environments. I need to have some kind of background noise while I work. Of course, I do occasionally need to shut a door and focus on a call or have a private meeting, but for most of the day, I draw energy from the people activity around me, or from the sound of music playing in the background. I’m always amazed to walk into an office setting that is so quiet that any slight disturbance, like the squeak of a chair or gentle cough of a peer, seems to echo through the room like the crashing of a cymbal. How do people get anything done when the slightest pin drop can interrupt your concentration?

the noise to innovation ratioAccording to the Journal of Consumer Research (from an article in and based on the results of experiments looking for the relationship of noise to creativity, a moderate amount of noise is conducive to creative success. Across five experiments investigating whether a low (50dB), medium (70dB), or high (85dB) volume within a typical coffee shop setting, the results indicated again and again that a medium amount of noise resulted in the most creative thinking, “providing just enough of a distraction to disrupt mental processing and cause abstracted thinking, but isn’t so loud that it reduced processing overall.”

It makes perfect sense to me. It’s kind of like when you take a shower and the rhythmic sound of the water helps you to solve a problem. Or when stepping back from a problem, putting down the pen or pushing back away from the keyboard, and listening to some music or watching a completely unrelated program on TV. Disconnecting yourself from a problem and engaging the brain with music allows the brain to relax, helping you to look at a problem with fresh(er) eyes and recognize new patterns.

One of my personal techniques is to spend my time on different projects throughout the day, with a constant Spotify playlist running in the background. My goal is to make a little bit of progress at a time rather than attempt to complete work projects in a single sitting. This often helps me to take an idea in an entirely new direction altogether.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (, leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.