No one wants friction in their life. We all want to reduce it. We praise people who choose better business or life partners. We admire people who restrict time wastage and mindfully reduce friction. Yet, somehow, friction manages to sneak into our lives. How do we achieve the life design goal of a frictionless life?
Frictionless design evokes the intuitiveness of the Apple mantra: “it just works.” According to Andreessen Horowitz partner Steven Sinofsky it is about “reducing the energy required by an experience.”
Consider also that frictionless design fits into flow theory. When you reach the point of flow in an activity it becomes frictionless, it just works for you.
Frictionless does not mean simple or minimal. A complicated process may be smooth in its operation. One of life’s greatest joys is losing yourself in the narrative of a good book. Getting the latest novel from your favourite writer used to be a painful experience. You saw the review in the New York Times and then had to wait for your local bookshop to stock the book some months later.
Today you take for granted the process of reading an Amazon-purchased digital book on one of your devices. There is a lot of complexity in the model of delivering a book to your device. Yet it is almost instantaneous. Once you’ve purchased it, you can lose yourself in its pages at any time by opening the Kindle app. The book will synche to the latest page you were on across all your devices.
Think about your life. What barriers and constraints can you deal with and remove to make your life run more smoothly?
Look for activities that frustrate you, that induce rage or that are unnecessarily complex.
There are three friction-prone areas in which to start. These are areas where you can achieve easy wins:
How much travel do you do a year? Do you make the decision to travel lightly? Do you consider alternative ways of connecting and engaging?
One of colleagues is in high demand not only for his work coaching clients one on one, but also as a speaker at various corporate events around the world. He loves giving talks and meeting face to face with his clients, but cannot stand being on the road too often. It cuts deeply into his contemplative time. He could be writing another bestseller that will impact the lives of thousands. Instead he is standing in line at Heathrow Airport security.
I’ve suggested to him that he reduce friction by limiting his travel. This does not mean less client interaction. It means designing his method of interaction around a medium that is better suited to smoothing out his day. Connecting with clients via videoconference can be just as effective as meeting with them face to face.
2. Direct Reports
How many direct reports do you have? I once worked with a CEO who had 12. This is far too many. It is not only too much of a burden on you, but it is also unfair on your team as they each have minimal access to you.
You should have a small team of trusted lieutenants and provide as much autonomy to your broader team as possible. Hire great people and empower them.
Does your organization run on meeting fuel? Do people need to meet in order for a decision to be made? How many regular meetings do you run, or attend? Do you require an agenda for every meeting? Does the term “meeting” mean a specific algorithm to your people, for example, must a meeting always be an hour (or more) in length? What percentage of your meetings are face to face versus via videoconference?
Creating a Frictionless Design Playbook
I recommend you consider implementing the following 8-step process over the course of a year. Work with your coach to refine this playbook and then discuss your progress in your regular coaching session.
The results will not only please you, but surprise you with how much more productive you become.
1. Categorize and chart your activities;
2. Score your various interactions daily, from 1 to 10 according to how much friction you feel;
3. After a month you should have enough data to determine which are your high friction interactions;
4. Plan out how you can reduce those frictions;
5. Introduce frictionless behaviour modification into your life. Focus on changing your behavior so you reduce the frictions;
6. Chart your interactions for the next 2 months. Pause monthly to review your progress;
7. Rinse and repeat this process over the next 3 quarters;
8. Conduct an annual review of your friction count.