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.
In this invigorating debut business guide, Varricchio and May, co-owners of the UpHouse marketing agency, propose that "proximity" to a challenge can often directly interfere with one's ability to solve it. At a time of intense competition for customers and pressure to innovate, the authors find that the kind of long-held and intimate experience with a market that many consider an asset is actually killing the original thinking needed in business. The authors go on to discuss how an outside perspective can jump-start ideas insiders would never have conceived. They explore the downside of efficiency (namely the monotony it nurtures), and the benefit of shaking things up to create "distance," or a fresh perspective. Varricchio and May discuss how to create distance from the org chart, to avoid the rigid stratification of responsibilities they experienced firsthand while working at big ad agencies. On a similar note, they urge businesspeople to gain a perspective independent from the industry they operate in, with "its... code of accepted activities and behaviors" dictating what ideas are and aren't acceptable. Marketers and those tasked with innovation will find this work full of food for thought. It's a much-needed perspective on how to escape inside-the-box thinking.