3 - Adding Friction

Sometimes making things harder is the right thing to do

This may seem counter intuitive, perhaps it might even seem like an anti patterns, but sometimes adding a little friction to a process is exactly what you need to do to get to the right outcomes.

Facebook is a hell of a drug. I used the site regularly to check up on what my friends were getting into and to stay involved in some hobbies. Lately, I had found that I wasn't getting as much value form the site. The more I got on the site, the more unsettled I got, and I realized I needed to make a change. I also noticed that going to the site was my "filler" activity; it was thing I did when I had a few minutes between meetings or while waiting in line at the store, so there were lots of opportunities to reinforce the behavior.

I looked at what I was doing, at my behaviors. I found that I, and the systems I was using, had made it really easy to go to Facebook, even without the app: I had a browser tab open most of the time and if I opened a new tab, I was always shown that as a "quick option". So I added a little friction: I closed all the tabs, removed the quick option. Now, every time I wanted to go to the site, I would have to actively do it.

At this point, it has been almost a month since I have gone to Facebook. When I was first starting though, I noticed that in the first few days, I stopped myself from going to the site upward of 20 times a day. That's how ingrained this had become, how mindless it had become, and I was just allowing it to happen without intention.

Affecting the behavior/habit this way is part of what Charles Duhigg talks about in his book “Power of Habit”. If you can short circuit the loop, it can go a long way to changing your habits/behaviors. As we’re thinking about helping people with culture change, adjusting the values and behaviors, this is something to consider that might help shape and shift what we do.

As an example of applying this in my work, we're looking at implementing is adding a little friction to our process of understanding where we might want to help coach and guide inside the organization. We're asking people to be a little bit more specific about the ways in which they want to improve, and help us understand a little more about where they'd like help. The idea here is they need to think a little more deeply about their outcomes, make the case for why they should be prioritized, and then work with intention. This way we don't just have people asking us to engage because it's an area that's getting attention and would be high profile/high visibility. And while this wasn't the only intention of adding the questions, it is already starting to have the effect.

While we want to make processes as smooth as possible, we also need to temper that with the outcomes we want, realizing that sometimes adding a little more friction can help yield better outcomes, because focusing on things that don't add value is waste.