You’re too close to your business, and it’s killing your creativity
Traditional business structures love stability and predictability. Yet many organizations believe the two essential ingredients for long-term success are creativity and innovation. Kiirsten May and Alex Varricchio, founders of the marketing agency UpHouse, call the relationship between these two opposing expectations the Proximity Paradox™ — the belief that those who are closest to a subject are best-qualified to innovate for it, when, in reality, intense proximity limits creativity. Instead, people need to create distance from challenges in order to see the best way forward. May and Varricchio believe that until we can separate innovation and execution within ourselves, we will only innovate to the level at which we can execute the idea. To be effective, we need to create distance between our innovation brain and our execution brain.
Unpacking ten common Proximity Paradoxes that affect a company’s people, processes, and industry, the authors share some practical ideas to create the distance necessary for your next great idea. An especially valuable book for creatives, and non-creatives in creative industries, but equally applicable to all businesses that depend on innovation, The Proximity Paradox encourages us to ask hard questions about how we work, how our businesses are structured, and why we routinely find our creativity at odds with what’s asked of us as executors and stewards of the bottom line.
A graphic designer is invited to paint a mural on the side of an old building in a rough end of town. She collaborates with a group of artists to turn four storeys of tired brick into a contemporary work of art. When the mural is complete, the neighborhood throws a party to celebrate the first of what they hope will be many rejuvenations to the area. The graphic designer’s boss reads about the mural in the news and asks her, “Why can’t you create something like that around here?”
We’ve seen things like this happen again and again for more than ten years. As advertising agency people, we have the opportunity to work with a lot of creative types. We’re not just talking about designers and artists; we’re talking about people with the ability to solve old problems in new, imaginative ways. Advertising agencies and marketing departments attract thousands of these types. Yet it’s rare to see a creative person unleash his or her full potential at work.
We call this effect the Proximity Paradox, and that’s what this book is all about. Proximity is the effect that shackles creativity, dilutes innovation, steers brave people down safe roads, and pushes leading-edge companies to the back of the pack. It’s what was blocking your view when a competitor blindsided you. It’s what eventually wore down your bold, inventive younger self, and it’s what is still wearing you down today.
“The Proximity Paradox is both provocative and prescriptive. It will challenge your industry experience, best practices, and team alignment. In our digital economy, where creativity and innovation are in constant demand, business leaders need a new approach for meeting their client needs. The Proximity Paradox helps you see what you are doing wrong and how to fix it. A must-read for all agency and marketing executives. ” — MK Marsden, 3-time global CMO, Managing Partner at Touchpoint Strategies and Board Practice Leader at Avasta
“The Proximity Paradox isn’t just a must-read for anyone in business today, it should be your manual for continually unleashing innovation in your teams and within yourself. Their approach is pragmatic, challenging, and, most importantly, hopeful. ” — Matt Johnston, Johnston Group
“On almost every page of this book, I found myself nodding my head in agreement, taking notes, or dog-earring the edge. It brings up so many points that I will now be putting in to practice in my own business. Big thank you to Kiirsten and Alex for putting this together. It’s a must-read for creatives and entrepreneurs. ” — Phoebe Cornog, Co-owner/Founder, Pandr Design Co.
“I read The Proximity Paradox as a neuroscientist, psychologist, and business owner and from all three perspectives feel like it’s great! It’s like applied neuroscience without all the jargon of how the brain works. Instead it’s a practical guide to taking a step back from some of the biases our brain naturally makes when we are too close or experienced in an area. I felt inspired to try these strategies with my own company and at other times affirmed with some of the strategies I already use. The examples throughout were poignant and I even caught myself laughing out loud on the streetcar. This book is a must-have for any creatives, business owners, or academics who want to stay relevant in their field for years to come. ” — Mandy Wintink, PhD, RYT, Life Coach/Director, Centre for Applied Neuroscience Inc.
“I have read a ton of famous business books and The Proximity Paradox is one of the better ones. It’s practical, relatable, and immediately applicable. I think the Proximity Paradox is a great concept, true in many ways. It gave me three ideas that I will try with my employees and a new business idea. ” — Steve Alexander, Operations Manager, AGI Westfield
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