Social Creativity & Design

by Luke Wroblewski September 25, 2006

In a presentation from 2005 titled Integrating Individual and Social Creativity (PDF), Gerhard Fischer of the Center for Lifelong Learning & Design (L3D) at the University of Colorado outlined some of his research on creativity. He concluded that “the complexity of problems transcends the individual human mind, requiring not only individual but also social creativity” and along the way made some interesting observations:

  • Social Creativity: Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker" dominates our collective imagination as the purest form of human inquiry — the lone, stoic thinker. But the reality is that scientific and artistic forms emerge from joint thinking, passionate conversations, and shared struggles.
  • Individual Creativity: Human collaboration is not only needed but also central to social creativity. Individuals participating in collaborative inquiry and creation need the individual reflective time depicted by Rodin's sculpture. Without such reflection it is difficult to think about contributions to social creativity.
  • “The strength of the wolf is in the pack, and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.”— Rudyard Kipling
  • Natural Science focuses on how things are. Design focuses on how things ought to be.
  • Design processes often take place over many years, with initial designs followed by extended periods of evolution and redesign.
  • Redesign and reuse: complex systems evolve faster if they can be built on stable subsystems.

Design problems are

  • Complex: requiring social creativity in which stakeholders from different disciplines have to collaborate.
  • Ill-defined: requiring the integration of problem framing and problem solving.
  • Have no (single) answer: require argumentation
  • Unique: the answer is not known