For just a moment, think back to how businesses functioned only a few short years ago. The cloud, for instance, was still in its infancy, which meant that physical hardware was very much necessary. Server rooms were a prerequisite, company networks needed complicated infrastructure setup, and other bits and bobs of technology were required for an organisation to merely operate and remain competitive.
Today, however, we are lucky enough to operate in a more seamless environment; one that comes with far less complications, fewer hassles, and, ultimately, minimal friction. In fact, what drives both consumers and businesses today is just that – the insatiable demand for frictionless experiences.
Think about it in the context of your own business. Every time one of your clients experiences a dropped call, a delay in delivery, or anything else that potentially wastes their time and energy, they experience friction. The same logic applies internally. If an employee has tech issues to the point where their productivity is hindered, even if only slightly, they too are facing a form of friction.
To remedy these, and countless other instances of resistance, business leaders need to view their organisation through a new lens. They should take a closer look at their customer experience, for example, and ask themselves, “How can I minimise existing friction?” and “How can I create more frictionless experiences?” To answer both questions effectively, the following three laws of frictioneering should be considered.
1. The law of the lazy mind
Thinking requires lots of energy. When faced with a challenge, the mind has evolved to automatically seek the lowest-friction solution.
In his bestselling book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, the author, Daniel Kahneman, notes, “…one of [the mind’s] main characteristics is laziness, a reluctance to invest more effort than is strictly necessary.” This represents human nature in general and is absolutely true with regards to customers and who they choose to do business with.
Think about it. The moment you present your clients with a bulky contract they need to read, or forms they need to fill out, sign, scan, email, and more, you are creating friction. As humans, we are biologically, chemically and electrically wired to find the easiest route possible. If your customer finds a competitor who seemingly offers a similar solution to the problem at hand, and can do it for them faster with less hurdles, chances are they’ll make the move without so much as a second of hesitation. Why would they choose you, and all your operational complications, when they could have access to the same product or service without having to expend more precious mental than is absolutely necessary?
2. The law of visible and invisible friction
Friction starts out invisible and is tolerated unconsciously by the market. But once this invisible friction is discovered, it becomes real. If significant friction is removed very quickly, “disruption” can occur.
The gist of the second law of frictioneering is this: the moment a new innovation or experience is created, it delights and wows customers. All too soon, though, this practice or service becomes the norm, and customer expectations shift once more. Technology within your own business can illustrate this perfectly. As we’ve already touched on above, consider the impact of the cloud on day-to-day operations. Before this innovation penetrated every industry, there were invisible frictions we all tolerated – slow scalability, cumbersome infrastructure setup, and more. Now, however, we take the cloud for granted, and we certainly can’t go back to working without it.
So, what can business leaders take away from this law then? How can it be used to better their own organisation? The best place to start, is by trying to identify frictions that we are unaware of, that can potentially be reduced, or even removed.
Uber is the perfect, well-touted example in this regard. By removing the invisible friction that surrounded the act of organising, directing and paying a taxi Uber created a relatively frictionless path for users. The differential in friction between the old and the new was significant enough that customers couldn’t resist flowing into the new-normal, and thus, this sector was disrupted.
3. The law of utilisation over invention
There is an abundance of friction in the system. There is also an abundance of appropriate tools available. Frictioneers should utilise today’s tools to remove today’s friction and avoid the “invention trap.”
Today, far too many people are trying to reinvent the wheel, and this can sometimes have the adverse effect of creating more friction, as opposed to eliminating it. It’s completely unnecessary, given that disruption and innovation can happen with the tools we already have at our disposal – like microservices, cloud services and digital partnerships.
Instead of assuming the role of inventors to combat friction, we should rather focus on becoming exceptional integrators. In his address at Singularity University Johannesburg, Larry Keely explained that out of the fourteen components that make up Uber’s tech stack, not a single one is proprietary. And at Airbnb, only seven of the fifty-seven components in their tech stack are proprietary. This means that today, if one has sufficient integration, and front end development capabilities you could essentially build something that does what these two organisations do, by simply licensing and integrating tools that are already available. Now, imagine what could be built on top of your existing business.
A world without friction
With these three laws in mind, you should now be better equipped to identify any friction your organisation may be experiencing, and generating, both internally and externally. All that’s left to do now is figure out how to tackle every instance.
To set you on the right path, over and above the questions we posed right at the start, you should also look at answering the following:
•Where are the obvious friction points in my customer journey?
•What fear or threat were we addressing when we created this friction?
•Does this threat still exist?
•How probable and how material is it?
•What value could I create for my customers and for my business by removing this friction?
•How can I use existing tools to reduce the friction?
Figure those out and you’ll be well on your way to making your business a frictionless one.
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