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Creativity, Remote: Part 1

Larry On Brand
2 min read

COVID may be slowly winding down. But remote and hybrid work are just getting started.

As someone who has spent a career trying to be creative with other people, I have felt the pain of remote work, and crave solutions that I can glimpse but not see fully yet.

First off, identifying some of the barriers:

This is the first thing people talk about so it's gotten a bit cliche. That doesn't make it untrue: the office did make for unexpected run-ins, cross-pollination – and just that moment when you cracked a hard problem and could run over and sketch it on a board and gather people around to improve it, get excited and make it.

The Tool Drives the Interaction
The medium is the action. Zoom was designed for meetings. Scheduled. Synchronous. Calendar time-bound. Round-robin talking.

Time+Video=space to be filled, or it feels unproductive (If we're not getting anything done, why is this on my calendar?).

The video-conference, like the conference call, wasn't designed for the non-linear progress, the highs and lows that creativity demands. Yet we try to force creativity to fit it.

Docs was designed for writing--No, more specifically, word processing. We can share a document and build on one another's work, but we'll always be in writing/editing/formatting mode, because that's what the tool is for.

I could pull in more examples but you get the point.

Physical Space as Studio/Atelier/Workshop.
I don't know how every brain works. But for my brain, physical space is a place where ideas accrete and build. Being in a room with the schedule on one wall, the research on another, a board of past ideas marked up with critique.

It takes the thing out of individual minds and puts them at a shared scale, with a memory.

(I'm not saying a physical space is the only way to accomplish this. But for me, it helps tremendously.)

(Un)Synced Time
We're not just not in the same place. We are not in the same time.

How many of us have switched to a midday shower, walking the dog mid-morning, eating early lunches or late breakfast; getting up early to work, managing your daughter through remote school, then working in the late afternoon.

Different day-parting leads to different rhythms. (Yes, this has always been the case: morning people and night people, productive time vs meeting time... but remote increases the possible variability and removes any shared anchors like lunchtime or end-of-day).

We can't think of solutions without identifying problems. I don't feel done with that. To be continued.