The Human Element … fuel and friction, and overcoming resistance to innovation and change

January 8, 2022

How do you get people to say yes to a new idea or innovation?

In their new book The Human Element Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal, both from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, explore the concepts of fuel and friction.

The deep assumption of most marketers, innovators, executives, activists, or anyone else in the business of creating change, is that the way to sell an idea is to focus on heightening its appeal.

We instinctively believe that if we add enough value, people will say “yes”. 

This reflex tends to lead us down a path of adding features to an idea and amplifying its benefits in order to get others on board. These activities and strategies designed to generate demand is a set of tactics called collectively as “fuel”.  

But by focusing on fuel to enhance attraction, innovators often neglect the other half of the equation – the “frictions” that work against the desired behaviour we seek in others. Frictions are the psychological forces that oppose and undermine change. Though rarely considered, identifying, understanding and overcoming these frictions is often the key to successfully achieving our innovation goals.

In summary, the four frictions that operate against new ideas and innovation:

By examining these frictions, readers will come to understand the unexpected reasons why the ideas and initiatives they are most passionate about get rejected. Readers also will learn how to identify and disarm these forces of resistance and will discover how the very frictions that hold us back can be transformed into important catalysts for change.

Diagnostic tool: Where’s the friction in your idea?

Mapping tool: Your friction report

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