Finding the right space to do creative work can be difficult. In the office, there are constant interruptions, unavoidable meetings and often unbearable amount of jargon choked noise, not to mention the all-seeing judgmental eyes of your boss. On the other hand, locking yourself in quiet isolation can be equally daunting, counterproductive and even boring. For most creatives, there is a ‘Goldilocks’ zone of just the right amount of noise, but not too much.
Perhaps this is why so many people tasked with something that demand a reasonable level of creativity often retreat to coffee shops. Recent research shows that the whoosh of espresso machines and caffeinated chatter typical of most coffee shops create the right level of ambient noise that just happens to trigger our minds to think more creatively. It creates just enough distraction to break people out of their patterns of thinking and nudge them to let their imagination wander, while keeping them from losing their focus on the project all together. This distracted focus helps enhance creativity.
Rahul Nair, an IT professional, agrees, but points out that this is not limited to creative tasks alone. ‘Any task that requires repetition or only the minimal concentration like entering data onto the computer, sending emails and basic coding can be done in coffee shops provided you have a good cup of coffee beforehand.’
‘I find it extremely productive work from a coffee shop. After a day at the office, I head to my favorite cafe, throw open my laptop and begin working on my next day’s tasks or replying to emails. There are too many distractions at home and you have to tend to all of them, whereas in a coffee shop I have the privileges of a guest’ says a Mumbai-ker who is slowly making her way up corridors of power with each cup of coffee.
‘I cannot always be at a coffee shop, but I have this neat app on my phone that brings coffee shop experience to my ears. It is called Coffitivity. It steams the usual sounds that you hear in a coffee shop. That and a pot of tea just do it for me.’ says Alex Brodie, an aspiring politician who is here in Kochi on vacation.
The main reason that you find yourself to be more productive in a coffee shop is that it is just a bit more exciting. There is a reason if famous authors and artists have sat for centuries in coffee shops drawing inspiration out of strange faces. Every place has its own vibes and emotions. To be surrounded by the warm buzz of people relaxing, and knowing to be in the place where great thinkers went to create, makes us feel just a bit greater as well. Even on a bad day, at a coffee shop, it is almost as if I’m filled by osmosis with the sound of the other’s activities around me, like how a bee works in a bee hive.
‘Are you sure it is not the coffee alone that induces that creativity? If it is, then why head to a coffee shop?, enquires Ankur Jain, who prefers the comforts of his room over coffee shops. ‘Background noises create a distraction, and finding the right balance is hard, especially when you have two loud-talkers nearby having a conversation that you cannot ignore.’
‘Coffee shops are great for bouncing ideas back and forth without needing to take any other action steps. Like building a to-do list, but to actually get stuff done you would need to go to a quieter place.’ says Jonathan de Rozario, a popular DJ in town who refuses to even put on a headphone when working.
‘A stroll through wide open spaces. Not coffee shops.’ says Ranjana Karunakaran, former owner of Kahawa.
Ejaz Ahmed, manager at a firm in Hyderabad, believes that working from a coffee shop is counterproductive as it does not offer the same environment as the office wherein everyone is working towards a common goal. I don’t even prefer taking short breaks for coffee during work. Instead I go over to my colleagues desks, praise them for their work, suggest changes or learn something new. I believe that it helps us in the longer run that a temporary relief from a cup of coffee.’
Since Kochi Biennale in 2012, many cafes in Kochi have started adhering to the needs of their creative customers by providing free internet creativity, large studios to showcase their work etc. Surely, coffee shop culture is here to stay and Jyothi Alex, a middle school teacher at Global Public School and a possible caffeine addled futurist, predicts that we will not only trade our offices for coffee shops in the years to come, but schools and retail stores would come to resemble coffee shops as well.