Confessions of a researchaholic

April 14, 2013

Creative collaboration

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:36 pm
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I found the TEDxBow talk by Lloyd Davis on “5 Open Secrets of Creative Collaboration” very interesting, in that it emphasized the importance of physical human connections (and trust) in fostering creative collaboration, which is entirely opposite to my methodology of minimizing physical human contacts.

The natural way to produce good ideas is to have a bunch of smart and creative people work together. This is the main (if not the only) reason for the success of top research institutions, as I have personally witnessed in Stanford and MSR.

The conventional method for collaboration is through physical proximity, implying that to work with top people you have to join them in a top institution.
I am not sure if this is the only or even the best way though. Personally I have not found physical proximity any better than remote collaboration; almost all my ideas were produced either entirely on my own or via collaborations with or inspirations from remote people. The current technology is already good enough for me to be (intellectually) connected to almost anyone I want. (People who shun technology are not likely to be very good anyway, at least in computer science.) Even serendipity, the main advantage of physical proximity, can be managed by remote collaboration; I actually found it more efficient to write down my ideas than rushing to tell people.

Another benefit for remote collaboration is that it provides more flexibility to fit people with different levels of intelligence and experience. Not everyone is smart enough to have productive face-to-face brainstorming, and when that happens, I usually find it a great waste of time. I would rather give them more time (and grace) to think through stuff remotely and communicate with me asynchronously.

But I do wonder if I can be more effective by mixing a bit physical collaboration with suitable folks. Will experiment and report.

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