Collaborative Creativity Tools

Nikolas Klein (previously at Figma) has created a new iOS app, Muse, that turns the iPad into a spatial canvas for creating multi-media scrapbooks. Here’s a video of the app.

According to Adam Wiggins (Muse),

“A founding insight for Muse is that deep thinking happens away from the computer. That could be a paper sketchbook, on a whiteboard, or just in your head. There are some up-and-coming tools for thought like Notion and Roam but they’re for desktop/laptop computers and primarily focused on text. We saw an opportunity for a thinking tool that blends together visual media, text, spatial navigation all made for the iPad and Pencil.”

In this podcast Nikolas Klein talks about collaborative creativity.


Collaborative Creatitvy brings together iteration and collaboration in the same space. Rapid iteration, rapid building ontop of each other’s ideas are at the core. Example, Sea Shanty Tik Toks. [DGW: don’t underestimate the simple ‘power of connection’ even between people who don’t know each other]. Tik Tok is a form of an asynchronous collab canvas. “I’m able to take your idea and build on top of it.”

Regarding remix, open source, copyright laws interference… the original owner of ideas should be in full control of what others can do with this in order to establish trust and a network of people who can work on the same thing; establish a ‘way of working’ together.

The role of tools in setting culture. How secure do you feel in making deep edits to other people’s work? Do you need permission? We have an innate idea of ownership, perhaps. It might come back to the tools themselves. Person A creates an idea and a couple of mocks. Person B takes one of the mocks and takes it in a new direction. Person C zooms out and connects new dots. It becomes fuzzy over time who added the key spark. It’s a cultural shift from ‘my idea’ to ‘our ideas’. The tools are important in establishing this culture…taking ownership less seriously. The product comes from the back-and-forth.

Problem solving is an aspect where there is a spark coming from two orthogonal planes of thought that meet to create something new. Unexpected connections from multiple frames / planes.

We must ruminate on the content to prepare it (and ourselves) for synthesis. Debunking the myth of the Eureka Moment. There’s a lot of history that led up to this ‘moment’ in time. Theories that kick around way in advance.

Stacks in the mind, harden, become full of too much to disassociate. Need to go outside, do something else, and the stacks get summarized and start to blur, allowing for something else to intrude and trigger new ideas.

The things you’ve chewed on recently are more likely to be brought into play, so it helps to shuffle things around periodically - reach back in time to previous work - to make the right content available at the right time. Roam follows this goal - making the knowledge you have available at the right time, so you can connect it to other ideas. This is also what Muse aims to do. You’re meant to marinate with your content and let ideas come out of your head (intuitive). But writing a paper requires more explicit structure. Affinity Mapping. Different tools for different requirements.

Mind Sketch model (sketching user experiences - Bill Buxton).

Learning from… showing people, contemplating the empty space, rearranging the puzzle pieces, describing it to others.

Collaboration helps with this process. I can show it to someone and they can communicate things back to me, give me advice on how to improve. Creation through manipulation. I send you a design. You make changes and send it back. That’s the first model of redundant collaborative creation because we’ve duplicated the objects and collab’d on top of it.

Multi-user collab comes in many modes. Drafting a doc, send to lots of different people who don’t talk to each other versus sharing it in Google Docs and seeing everyone else’s comments.

Redundancy helps for comparison. On open canvas tools like Figma, you get a lot of redundant collab design. If there’s a lot of wip comments that you don’t want leadership to see, you’d need to bring it into another space.

Feedback comes to mind. Presenting and soliciting different audiences.

Control. People can be fluently moving between different ways of collaborating and invite stakeholders with certain permissions, clients with certain permissions, stakeholders, etc.

Shared spaces (canvas) and ‘trash areas’, ‘don’t look at this’ places. Why can’t we let these go? We want to work towards the ‘end’ thing and try to sideline the steps that got us there. Git has its UI probs but it helps to keep things focused on the end result. Fear of being judged for ‘bad ideas’.

Effort to make differences between the private and collab space more fluid. Different zones / demarcations and move more easily between them. My ‘office space’ versus meeting rooms versus watercooler. We tend to bring our cultural understandings of physical spaces into digital spaces, at least in the beginning.

People can feel comfortable sharing bad ideas in collaborative creativity. There’s value in bringing people together and sharing together. How to build trust? Less in-person time. No opportunity to fall backwards into each other’s arms in trust exercises. What’s the new tech solution?

Github. Tools can give us guardrails. Only allow certain people to merge stuff into the main lines. Canvas tools grow once they’re allowed inside an organization. Tools can make cultures more open, more respectful.

Building boundaries. Stream of consciousness feedback. I want your hot-take, your immediate reaction, this made me happy, angry, or confused. That overlaid with feedback from others is how to perceive audience feedback. Getting everyone to share these thoughts in the first place is a trick. Figma gives everyone the ability to share visually - not something that is natural to everyone.

Experience of ‘Shared Mind’. Realizing the value of other people’s ideas. Once you feel the value of other people adding freely plus being respected for the things that you’ve done, you can take all these ideas and tap into everyone else’s mind - that is an amazing feeling. That is the value of collaboration. There is a beauty in seeing everyone’s collaboration and not remembering who did what. Innovative value in being able to tap into other people’s minds.

Hearing other people’s crazy ideas may be the spark that you need to get to where you want to go. There’s tremendous value in an open and inclusive design process.

Design can be problem solving in an ‘open solution space’. Design can be so much more than making things pretty. I can apply these iterative strategies to other domains. The culture needs to allow for this to happen. Design is a series of decisions that are thoughtful and considered, not arbitrary. This is a process that can be applied to many creative activities in every domain.

Bring people from other domains into the software development process. Need to grapple with all the realities of the world. Need to find new tools and processes that can tap into that.

Visual versus verbal thinkers. Having multiple ways to communicate ideas in the same environment helps us.

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Good read :slight_smile: That app looks really cool and fun to use. Building on an idea with collaboration always helps me find that missing creative spark, whenever I think of an idea/story I usually run it by my uncle who is like a mentor to me, just to see if he sees it a different way or has any feedback and always opens up my mind to different possibilities to take it down a path I never knew existed

I like how the app invites visual collaboration given that people come with different strengths and weaknesses. As a verbal person, myself, I enjoy working with people that are visual learners and using a tool like this stretches me.

I am reminded by an interview with Charles Mingus in which he said playing the piano always informed his bass because it was so difficult for him to do; it opened up his mind. Or, Becket, who once said that writing in French was so challenging that it made him think harder and to be more precise about the words he chose.

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