Friction : resistance. It slows things down, heats things up, causes abrasions and blisters, reduces or restricts action. But I’m not talking about the physical sort of friction. I’m talking mental friction. The type that blocks us from doing or getting what we want. It comes in many forms. Let’s take a look.

Make a phone call. A lovely calm female voice answers. She, the automated phone answering system, starts to go through an interminable list of options. None of the choices are quite right, so you ponder, then make a selection. She comes back with another list of several choices none of which are what you need, but you take another stab. Then she starts talking again and if you were lucky enough to get to where you want, you hear this, “Due to heavy call volume, your wait time is. . .” You know, it’s not due to heavy call volume, it’s due to insufficient customer service reps. At this point the friction starts making a lot of heat. You realize the company you called has no respect for your time or your satisfaction. Had they tested their own automated phone tree, they’d have realized, it sucks. They’d have found that a real person answering from the start would help their customers quickly and efficiently.

Go to a store. Take your items to the check out. Your order is rung, you present your credit or debit card. The cashier says, “$20 minimum on cards.” If you’re familiar with VISA/Mastercard merchant agreements, you’d know that in the agreement the merchant signed with their bank for processing card payments it states that they must accept credit/debit cards the same as cash. That means no discrimination between cash or credit or debit—no discount for cash, no fee for credit, no minimum purchase—in other words, no friction. A card must be treated the same as cash, and except for the processing fee, and the convenience, and the safety, and the security, and the time savings that card processing offers the merchant and the customer, it is. The next time someone presents you with resistance to using your card, ask them if they want your business or not. (Unfortunately, these rules have been changed. Gas stations are allowed to charge a different price, and some merchants are allow to set a minimum charge amount. So much for “same as cash.”)

Vinyl is friction. When a diamond stylus is dropped on a spinning disc there’d be no sound without friction. That friction is doom for the record and for the sound quality. The only way to reduce the friction is listen to CDs or other digital sources.

Vacuum tubes throw off copious amounts of heat—wasted energy. They require more effort, attention and maintenance—friction. And they produce more distortion, harmonic, intermodulation and resonance—more friction. They cost more, deliver less—more friction.

Have you ever participated in a survey or a questionnaire? Part way through it you start to think, “How long is this going to take?” That’s friction and another example of not testing something before making it public. A little consideration goes far for gaining the cooperation of others.

Am I guilty? How easy is it to acquire one of my artworks? How easy is it to audition the Project? Let me know how I can reduce the friction for you. All it takes is an email. [Contact me]

Anything that reduces the nonessential, the number of steps, the speed humps, time bumps and hoop jumps, reduces friction. People keep cooler. Live happier. Spend more. Come again.

Businesses that test and analyze their procedures to find the hitches, redundancies, inconveniences, and annoyances, then take steps to reduce the friction can do wonders for themselves and their customers.

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