Purposefully Adding Friction to a Process

Generally, I’m a big proponent of making things as frictionless and simple as possible. Whether it’s product pricing, customer onboarding, support channels, or any number of other items, less headache is better. Now, there are certain things where adding friction actually adds value, especially when done in a tasteful way.

Here are a few areas to consider adding friction:

  • Hiring Process – It’s important candidates have a good experience, but it’s also important to fully vet and evaluate the person with tasks like a writing assessment, technical evaluation, reference checks, and more
  • Partnerships – While startups should say ‘no’ to most partnership requests, opportunities do arise that merit further evaluation, and adding friction like guaranteed minimums, joint marketing arrangements, and more can make it worthwhile
  • Raising Money – Just because an investor offers money doesn’t mean extensive reverse due diligence shouldn’t take place by calling CEOs of past investments, holding mock board meetings, and vetting the investor as much as the startup’s been vetted

Adding friction here means being more thoughtful and taking more time that originally anticipated so as to achieve a better outcome. Most of the time friction should be removed but in select cases it should be added.

What else? What are some other thoughts on when friction should be added to a process?

3 thoughts on “Purposefully Adding Friction to a Process

  1. Interesting to see this… I’m in agreement with what you’ve put, David, especially around Partnerships. I’ve tried making Partnerships in the past that didn’t make sense, and there was no friction set for the Partner. It was really all on us. Big learning point there. Also…

    As much as I’m also a big proponent of APIs, turn-key SaaS platforms, and simplicity, I’ve found that a little friction for customer set-up can also be a good thing. It needs to be low friction, but a little friction is a good thing in either testing the waters if the customer is really a good customer for you or to get the customer to put a little skin in the game.

    With a plethora of options in the marketplace these days for seemingly everything, customers seem to have the power, and getting a LITTLE skin-in-the-game is tough, admittedly. However, a little friction helps vet customers which can be surprisingly a good thing.

  2. Occasionally, I’ll remove myself completely from my team to figure out how they operate without me. I’ll be completely incommunicado for 24 hours and come back to figure out what happened. A couple things will reveal themselves:

    1. You’ll quickly see which people step up and which ones need to be coached to further independence
    2. You’ll understand where you have holes in your process so that you can develop better, more well defined processes so that these issues don’t persist or get worse because they go unnoticed as the business continues to grow and there’s more on the line

  3. From my experience, I would have added friction to starting Afara Global. There were a few questions I didn’t ask that would have been helpful: 1) Have I targeted the right customer? 2) Am I really listening to my customer? 3) What am I missing, and is it alright to move forward without a couple more pieces?

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