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Workplace Friction

Updated: Nov 4, 2018



Stanford Technologies Venture Design (STVP) program is hosting workshops on workplace friction, presented by Bob Sutton, New York Times bestselling author and Stanford professor

Walking into Stanford University's design school (d.school) Monday evening sparked an overwhelming sense of "home." Attending an event put on by Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) on organizational "Friction," the focus was presented as: "Part organizational design. Part therapy."


My husband and I had a laugh.


As a master's of counseling psychology student, and Brian, a Stanford alum, engineer and design thinking facilitator (especially to youth), we see more and more how the world of design and therapy are merging...


It's about being empowered and creating the lives you choose.


Presented by Bob Sutton, New York Times bestselling author and Stanford professor, what we learned and discussed as a group was invaluable in terms of understanding workplace friction.


"The battle against friction never ends," says Sutton, referencing Drew Houston, Dropbox CEO, in saying that, "It's like mowing the lawn."


Which, if you’re a nature lover like myself, isn’t always a bad thing.


Friction, perhaps also understood as tension, can be crucial for "making decisions, increasing commitment, and creativity," says Sutton. He also goes on to add how companies are often inclined to promote those who mitigate workplace friction, overlooking its power and place overall.


That all said, no body really enjoys having too much tension around them... so how do we keep it all in check?


With a visual of a canister of WD40 on the slide behind him, Sutton describes how there are "grease people" and "gunk people" in the workforce. While some people are more inclined to help ideas or initiatives move along, others create resistance.


3 Solutions

1. Ignore them if you can

2. Go over their heads

3. Butter them up


Sutton also explains how organizations tend to be more keen on adding new initiatives, when in actuality, the solution in reducing workplace friction might lie in doing less.


"There aren't enough incentives for subtraction and not addition," says Sutton.


Sutton also highlights a key practice in the medical field: "Sometimes the best advice is don't just do something, stand there." Remembering to take a pause in this ever-speeding-up tech world might be the ultimate answer.


In that same regard...


"Nail it before you scale it," is a closing notion by Sutton.


Sutton and the STVP group are open to as many collaborators on their Friction-focused work as possible.


If it's not going to cause you too much friction to get involved, jump on in!


#friction #workplacefriction #STVP #stanford #designthinking #learning

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