Starting today, every Thursday here on Growthology we are going to highlight some practical applications from the world of research. We’re filing these posts under a new series we’re calling “Practically Friday.”
We'll feature some more business-minded research in the future, but to kick us off I've come across a fun piece of advice from psychology I know has applications to startups.
Startups are famously informal work environments. Even more so if you hang out and work at a local shared community space. Unfortunately, without offices and structure, this can lead to noisy work conditions. Really noisy. I've witnessed this firsthand at a couple of incubators and startups, or at events like Startup Weekend. So what do people do? They plop on some headphones or ear buds and put on their favorite music (or sometimes the event organizers blast some tunes on speakers).
You reason that listening to music you like blocks out background noise and maybe makes you feel good or energized. Turns out this may not be a great idea. New research by Nick Perham and Martinne Sykora finds that people who listened to music they liked while working demonstrated worse work performance (measured by a short-term memory test). The authors reason one of the primary reasons for this result is because music people generally like--pop songs--are acoustically dynamic. People who listened to music with less acoustical variation (in the study's example, grunge metal) that they did not like fared better.
The best work condition was a quiet environment, which in the real world isn't always available. So if you have to deal with a noisy work environment, listen to something monotonous and that you hate.
For the pointer, I thank Wonkblog and Sarah Cliff.