The Proximity Principle


Have you ever noticed how good we are at solving other people’s problems?

If only it were up to me, I could make it better.

It’s so easy to see a situation from a distance and think we know the best solution, but in reality, we can’t possibly see the full picture of a problem until we take a step closer and interact with the people involved. This takes time, intentionality, and vulnerability, so our natural inclination is to keep a “healthy” distance. However, this distance doesn’t solve problems—it actually creates them.

Our resistance to get proximate to problems results in us creating solutions that seem good on the surface. However, we often fail to ultimately solve the needs or desires of the people we’re trying to help. Effective problem-solving requires us to know the people we serve.

The closer we are to a need, the higher our level of empathy, and the greater our ability to solve it effectively.

This proximity principle applies to every environment.

Take business, for example. Our proximity to the customer helps us understand and meet their needs. As a leader, connecting with our employees helps us know their goals. In a nonprofit organization, the closer we get to the beneficiary, the better we are able to solve their challenges. In church, our presence in our community helps us meet specific needs and love people well.

It’s actually one reason that government often fails to solve challenges. Bureaucracy creates layers, layers create distance, and distance inhibits our ability to understand and provide effective solutions.

We’re never going to serve people well if we don’t know them.

We won’t solve the race relations challenge from a distance.

We can’t improve the customer experience from the corner office.

We’re not going to fully understand our employees needs from answers on an annual survey.

We will never reach our community if we stay inside the church building.

Get outside. Connect with your community. Get close to the people you want to serve.

Proximity to people means things might get messy, but the results will always be worth it.  

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Today, business means more than just mere products and services. Your organization needs to stand for something. Branding is what you tell the world; leadership is how you make it come true.

No one knows this dynamic better than Kevin Paul Scott.

Companies turn to Kevin for advice on how to up the meaning-quotient in their businesses, so that employees and customers alike champion the business as if it were their own.

Let Kevin come and teach your group about how to build a business and communicate corporate values in a way that resonates with consumers.

His speeches include:
• Building a Business with Meaning
• Leading When the Majority is Wrong
• In Changing Times, Hold to Unchanging Principles
• The War for Talent: Recruiting and Retaining Top Tier Talent
• Essential Exchanges: What You Have to Give Up to Go Up