From an article about being more productive at work, here’s a very interesting study about the relationship between moderate noise and creativity:
… studies have shown that for some people, some level of background noise can enhance creativity. People asked to engage in word-association tests and devise solutions to hypothetical scenarios, for instance, were found to be more creative when surrounded by a moderate level of noise — 70 decibels, about the volume you might experience in the average coffee shop. Louder levels of noise, however, diminished creativity.
The researchers involved in this study suggest that moderate noise increases creativity by actually making it a little harder to process information. This actually encourages abstract thinking, leading people to take alternate routes to solve a problem at hand.
This doesn’t mean you should constantly surround yourself with noise whenever you’re working. But if you’re stuck on a problem and want a bit of help in thinking creatively, heading to a moderately noisy environment could be a good idea.
(70 decibels is a little louder than the typical TV or car motor, but lower than nearby traffic noise). Here’s the original research paper if you want to read it.