What an Ice Storm Taught Me about Friction and Leading

Not too long ago, my neighborhood was covered in ice. The slick spots made walking a bit treacherous as there was no friction. My shoes didn’t grip the slippery surface and the only thing between me and a trip to the emergency department was dexterity and luck. Fortunately, luck was on my side each day and, despite a couple of close calls, I managed to safely navigate through my daily morning strolls.

Reflecting on those icy walks got me thinking about the importance of friction, not just when you are trying to stand upright on ice, but when you are trying to move your team or organization forward – even on the best of days.

Friction in business is often considered a bad thing. Business experts extol the virtues of removing friction from sales, manufacturing, and customer service processes. This makes sense as you don’t want to slow down a sale, reduce the number of items moving through the production facility, or cause customers to wait too long for an issue to be resolved.

That said, there are times when a bit of friction can be a good thing, especially when that friction improves the outcome of a meeting, the robustness of a discussion, or the quality of a decision.

This type of friction shows up in an organization when somebody asks questions like:

  • How might we think about this issue from a different perspective?
  • Is there a different path that we can take, even it might be harder at first?
  • How might we challenge our assumptions?
  • Might there be a better way we can tackle this problem so we don’t continually keep running into it?

We have created a tool that you can use to consider how to create some valuable friction. Get the tool here. Watch this short video about how to put the tool into action.