"But how do you brainstorm remotely? Or riff remotely? Or collaborate creatively remotely? Isn't it better when you're in a room, tossing ideas back and forth?"

I hear some version of this fairly often from people who aren't used to making things with others from far away.
There's an assumption that four walls, a whiteboard, a table, some space, and a door at a shared address are necessary ingredients in the creative soup that is working creatively with other people.

But ideas don't give a shit about any of those things.

Ideas like the shower. Ideas like our pillows. Ideas like commutes. Ideas like walks. Ideas like the morning, or late nights. Ideas like daydreams. Ideas like you doing something else so they can surprise you.

Ideas aren't contained. They aren't located. They don't reside. They're nomadic.

They aren't something you control — they bubble up, they arise. You don't get to have them when you want. They come to you.

Certain settings or conditions may spark a thought, but you don't need to be in a room with other people for great ones to emerge. And you absolutely don't need to be huddled up breathing the same air to work on an idea. To play with an idea. To toss one back and forth with a partner, or two, or five.

You just need the right minds, wherever they are, feeding on insights, wrapped around the same concepts. It's a fluid process, not a fixed one. You need communication, not presence.

There may be times when being physically together helps something materialize. This can be especially true when you're making something physical (like a clay model) rather than virtual (like software).

But in most cases, being there is a simply a tool in the toolbox, it's not the toolbox.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.