Reflecting on the last two days’ posts – one on the long, hard, stupid way and one on mobile gift giving, I’m left with the notion that if we’re going to bring on serious partners to solve serious problems, then we actually need some friction.

That is: Kony2012 is essentially frictionless.  It spreads like wildfire.  But the disconnect between the apparent ease of “doing something” about Kony (“buy your Kony action kit”) and what it will take to address all the complexities in Northern Uganda and beyond is….stark, to say the least.

It seems like we have three options:

  1. Confine high-velocity, frictionless stories to ideas that are pretty simple
  2. Use high-velocity, frictionless stories as the hook to get people’s attention, and then start a longer, more engaged dialogue
  3. Decide that real solutions will require embracing complexity from the get-go – so a big push to engage with an audience that craves simplicity is actually not time and money well spent.

Which do you choose?

7 thoughts on “Friction

  1. I think people are actually very hungry for real conversation about real problems. Everything gets boiled down into frictionless stories because we don’t know how to deal with friction. Our civic discourse – whether at a national level or in a meeting of six people – is broken. We have to LEARN how to faclitate and participate in these tough conversations – until we learn (and practice!) that, frictionless is all we can do.

  2. Friction is coming back yet people are scared to talk about it. I am watching the show “Mad Men” right now and I am amazed (no I don’t believe everything on TV) about the “frictionless” conversations that those suburban neighborhoods had on the weekends…and probably still do today!
    I try to introduce friction conversations to all of my friends and it is interesting to see which ones respond and love to talk about real life and those that sort of back or shy away from it.
    And that is okay…it is not for everyone and you have to respect everyone’s views…you never know when they may come around if you keep trying yet respecting them.
    Great post Sasha

  3. Very thought-provoking. It made me think of two things. First, it reminded me of Seth Godin’s All Marketers Tell Stories, and made me wonder whether in trying to frame stories in an appealing way, we do so in a way that ends up connecting us to an audience that will not ultimately resonate with our projects or vision because we’ve made the story unrealistically simplistic. Second, I think of all the aid workers, helpers, people who genuinely care who have had their hearts broken or burnt out in part because they were sold a frictionless version of what it means to be a part of change in this world. I wonder how to tell stories in a way that taps into people’s passion but gives them real hope, not oversimplified hope.

  4. Christen, wow that’s an amazing perspective I hadn’t thought of – the perspective of aid workers who have been told frictionless stories. I do believe there’s a way to tell and frame real stories, but it takes a different level of tenacity, grit, and skill. Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick is the best guidebook I know for telling stories that stick, and I think we all have the chance to up our game to tell more authentic stories. For more on this, by Acumen’s CEO Jacqueline Novogratz:

  5. 4. Tell two stories. Story 1 is frictionless. It is to attract all those who want to chip in the $10 to help, but don’t want to be involved beyond a blog post, face book update, or twitter feed. … Story 2 is friction. It is to engage those with a desire to help solve the deeper problem.

    Maybe the difference between your #2 & this is that with #4 perhaps we actually solve two problems. After all, aren’t all complex problems made up of smaller simpler problems? It seems that one could break any problem up into two parts – a part that can be solved frictionlessly and one that needs friction.

    Just a frictionless thought.


  6. Compassion and moral imagination are painful (though worthwhile) endeavors. In my experience, when someone comes from an environment that didn’t nurture these qualities, they don’t go from 0 to 60 overnight. Transcending comfort zones and preconceived ideas is a slow, hard road. There’s friction there, but I’ve found that friction is often a combination of options 2 and 3 above — a move from an awareness and craving a simple solution because they’ve never been taught/exposed to anything else to an understanding of the complexity of both the issues and the solutions. A both/and situation, not either/or. Choosing just option 3 doesn’t seem sustainable, in my opinion.

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