Keep your desk a little messy.
In a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science, students met in either a messy or an organized room, and had to come up with a new use for ping pong balls (a standard test of creativity). Judges rated the ideas, without knowing which rooms the groups were in. The result? Solutions from the messy room were gauged to be more interesting and innovative than those from the neat one.
Work at a coffee shop.
There’s a reason Starbucks is always filled; it has the ideal decibel level for brainstorming, according to the New York Times. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign asked study participants to think of ideas for new products with various levels of background noise, and found the best ideas were generated with ambient noise of around 70 decibels, or that of a coffee shop. Moderate noise levels help you think outside the box, study author Ravi Mehta, an assistant professor of business administration, told the paper. Extreme quiet (around 50 decibels, typical of many offices) is good for projects requiring sharp focus—say, crunching numbers—but not abstract thinking, while a too-loud 85 decibels (think: garbage disposal) is too distracting.