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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Is it Too Quiet in Your Office?

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Flickr user Michael Lokner

Do you like a library-like atmosphere in the workplace, where everyone keeps their heads down in their cubicles and soldiers on in silence? Or do you prefer a busier setting, where ambient noise takes the decibel level up a few notches?

A new study shows the latter atmosphere may be more conducive to creativity, the Wall Street Journal reports. The study, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, involved several experiments in which participants were asked to complete exercises that required brain work, such as word-association games and practical problem-solving. As they  took on the tasks they were subjected to soft, moderate or loud levels of ambient noise, recorded in a cafeteria, at a roadside, and at a construction site.

The people in the moderate group (subjected to 70 decibels worth of noise, about the level of a busy cafe) turned out to give the best objective answers on the word-association test, and their solutions to problems posed were subjectively rated higher by their peers.

"The study," the Journal reports,  "adds to research suggesting that small doses of distraction—including hard-to-read fonts—prompt the mind to work at a more abstract level, which is also a more creative level."

So if you want to come up with innovative solutions to the challenges facing government in the years ahead, it may be time to pump up the volume.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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