Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

May 2022

Comfort, Friction

Been doing this thing a little bit more frequently lately where when people are asking what Avanceé is, a demonstration happens. Specifically found on hardware (rings being worn, glasses being worn at that moment), or the flexibility that a desired platform does or doesn’t show (some funky workflows via Apple Shortcuts, AirTable play, or something a tick further in scope). And it’s really interesting how these interactive moments confirm routes for folks to consider whether or not their use of connected technologies is taking them forward or leaving them static in a changing world.

You see, most people really do live on the side of comfort. We make sure to live in comfortable places, transport ourselves in comfortable pods, and even go as far as making sure the relationships around us cultivate and nurture those aspects of comfort. When something rubs up against that comfort (aka, friction), we respond viscerally to this. If it’s too intense, we may respond negatively (someone being asked to tap their phone against a ring coming across like a “kiss the ring“ moment). If it’s not intense enough, it becomes forgetful (that same context of tapping a ring, but nothing happens because the phone is covered in a thick case which also blocks everything except cellular transmissions). Comfort, when it is challenged, can cause us to reevaluate whether or not we are in the place we want to be or taking proactive steps to the place we desire to be.

Within some Avanceé experiments over the past years, a lens towards comfort and friction has often come to the surface of the analysis. Whereas on one side we can ask folks to describe and point us to the desired outcomes that lead to comfort, many people fall a little bit flat when you ask them to do the same as it relates to friction. Understanding the ranges friction entails seems to be a semantic challenge. Or in simpler language, most folks don’t have a language for friction - they have a response to it, but no a language for it until they have processed it.

This language challenge looms larger when spoken in the concept of project teams and their attending organizations. Multiple management philosophies (Design, Development, Organizational, etc.) all try to cover these gaps. But friction, understanding the depth of this friction and what positive friction can do versus negative friction, seems to be missing. A commonly held axiom, “let’s break this down to a manageable level,” is the language of acknowledging friction. How the thing is being manage is what is addressing directly the friction learned. Far too often, managing the languages of the response isn’t managing the friction itself. Even as the friction is a complex moasic of controllable and uncontrollable activity.

Most people understand that without friction, a tire is not able to be utilized. If there’s not enough friction, for example when a road has rain or ice on it, then you slide off the road. If there’s too much friction, you don’t move at all. The right amount of friction maximize is the economy of energy that you put into the automobile, and also moves you in the direction that she would like to go. But over time, the level of friction may diminish. All things that are created will eventually decay. And the amount of heat produced when friction happens, causes this erosion. This is not a bad thing. It explains the range between comfort and discomfort.

The decision that many folks can lean into coming to really live across this continuum of comfort and friction. Once you have developed the language to understand what is comfortable, or what is challenging your comfort. The opportunity exist for you to redefine your relationship to the area that is regarded as friction. This can be challenging, and often requires a perspective well outside of ourselves. That’s not a call to hire an outside perspective such as Avanceé, but such views might be helpful if only for helping to judge whether the friction is actually a chance for innovation, or a call for better execution.