When we interact with products and services, there are efforts that we want to eliminate.
My favorite example, speaking personally, is all the tedious friction associated with the supermarket. Make a list that you end up ignoring. Driving all the way there. Look for parking. Make dozens (at least) of purchase decisions. Queue up at the register. Pay. Feel embarrassed you have no cash to tip the bagger. Drive back home and realize that you’re still not finished, because you have to put away the things you bought.
These types of activities are the reason why “frictionless” became a buzzword. Because, who would want to struggle doing these things?
It turns out that quite a few people, although at first glance we might not believe it. Frictionless solutions are not desirable when the activity they avoid is associated with our identity.
Here my example is professional instead of personal. In a project for one of our clients, we discovered some women in rural communities refuse to stop hand washing all their laundry. And it would seem irrational, because hand washing is onerous and limiting. But they don’t want to stop it because doing that work is their way of showing love to their family. If you save them that work, you’re actually taking away that form of expressing themselves.
Other desirable frictions are associated with status. For example, wine drinkers don’t want the convenience and ease of a screw cap, because that diminishes the sophistication of the act of opening a bottle.
Innovation is not just about eliminating frictions, but about knowing which frictions are worth eliminating.