The Proximity Paradox: How to Create Distance from Business as Usual and Do Something Truly Innovative

The Proximity Paradox: How to Create Distance from Business as Usual and Do Something Truly Innovative

The Proximity Paradox: How to Create Distance from Business as Usual and Do Something Truly Innovative

The Proximity Paradox: How to Create Distance from Business as Usual and Do Something Truly Innovative


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The Proximity Paradox will show you how to step back from your business to focus your creativity and meet your clients’ needs
“Innovative … It’s a much-needed perspective on how to escape inside-the-box thinking.” — Publishers Weekly
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 examples of the Proximity Paradox 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770415324
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 03/24/2020
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

Alex Varricchio worked with one of the largest advertising agencies on the Canadian Prairies for 10 years, and eventually led the creative department as creative director. He has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and pursued his first business venture at the age of four. Kiirsten May has always had a passion for storytelling and creative expression. She’s channeled that passion into helping brands and individuals influence their communities through well-told stories. Together, they are the co-owners of UpHouse, a marketing agency, and Crainstorm, a crowd- sourced brainstorming web app.

Read an Excerpt

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.

Table of Contents


i. Recognizing the Proximity Paradox ii. The Birth of Proximity iii. Managing Proximity

Part One: Create Distance for People

1. Be an Innovator, Not an Executor: Skunk Works, Innovation Colonies, and creating distance from responsibilities
2. Listen to the New Blood: Diamond Shreddies and creating distance from your experience
3. Stop Trying to Be So Efficient: Havas and creating distance from workday monotony 

Part Two: Create Distance from Process

4. Trust Yourself Before Data: Apple and creating distance from the data
5. Don’t Be Precious with Ideas: Pebble and creating distance from your products and ideas
6. Come Up with Ideas to Plan: Shutterstock and creating distance from your plans
7. Invert the Org Chart: Gore and creating distance from org chart responsibilities 

Part Three: Distance from Industry

8. Create for Future Customers: Nintendo and creating distance from your existing customers
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