How to transform friction into opportunities

Friction is a great source of opportunities, if you can transform pain into gain. Friction can be both visible and invisible. Sometimes people may come to you and say, “such and such is bothering me.” That is visible friction, the pain people can already feel.

There’s even more opportunity in identifying invisible friction. That is the pain people are suffering but cannot easily feel. It’s like a quiet cancer that is destroying them from within, which they cannot feel until it is too late.

How do you identify invisible friction? How do you make the invisible visible?

Last year my doctor recommended that I have a PET scan done. I went to a special lab where they injected a dye into my body that allowed the doctors to see any hidden cancer growing in my body. Fortunately, they found no cancer that day. But what if they had? They could have treated it before it grew large enough to torment me and kill me.

It’s the same with friction. Very often you can’t feel it, until it’s too late. Why can’t you feel it? Because often the friction that can destroy your business is felt by others. It may be felt by your customers, who are dissatisfied with your service. It may be felt by your employees, who feel they can’t be heard. It may be felt by your suppliers, who are tired of your nitpicking. Friction can be anywhere in your environment. It could be a new technology in your domain that will eventually destroy your business.

In addition to killing you, the friction in your environment can also be your greatest source of opportunities, if you notice it and take action. For example, what is the friction in the environment of oil companies these days? Global warming. Yet how many of them have converted this domain trend from a threat to a huge growth opportunity? None that I know of.

Companies often fail to notice friction simply because it doesn’t hurt. Twenty years ago, did the major TV networks feel pain because of the emergence of the internet? Probably not much. But as bandwidth speeds grew, and they faced increasing competition from online streaming, did they feel pain? Of course. But how many of them have transformed this domain trend from pain into opportunity? None that I know of.

How do you find this friction? By aggressively looking for it and listening to it. Not on an occasional basis, when people complain. You must look for friction on a constant basis, by using a systematic opportunity process. By using an opportunity process, you can not only notice hidden friction, but you can also evaluate it and consciously convert it into opportunity. That way friction can be your friend, not your enemy.