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© BOB SUTTON  2018

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Learn With Us

Elizabeth Woodson, a  student in our d.leadership class, facilities brainstorming (in a Winnebago) about how employees of a social service agency can serve clients in more humane, rapid, and less frustrating ways.   Read the story here.  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth’s fellow coach, Saul Gurdus.”

As our philosophy conveys, Huggy Rao and I have designed The Friction Project as a journey where we learn by talking and listening to, teaching, studying, and trying to help people in all kinds of roles and organizations. We believe our insights will evolve faster and be more useful if—along the way-- we keep showing our unfinished ideas to lots of smart people.


Here’s how to track our emerging perspective, work with us, and offer suggestions, stories, insights, and critiques.


1. Reach out and react. We love hearing from constructive and civilized friends, acquaintances, and—and especially—strangers. If you have a story, ideas, or feedback about our take on organizational friction, please Tweet at us or about our work. We are @huggyrao or @work_matters. You can also use LinkedIn to comment on or spread the word about our work, or to contact us. You can find Bob here and Huggy here on LinkedIn. Or email Huggy, Bob, or both of us.


2. Take a Stanford class. For Stanford students, friction and how to reduce and navigate around it, is among the central themes in Huggy’s Business School Class HRMGT 282: People Operations: From Startup to Scaleup. It is also a frequent theme in ME 368/ MS&E 489: d.leadership:design leadership in context, a hands on class that Bob helps to teach at the Stanford In addition, for the 2018-2019 academic year, Bob will be starting a new advanced undergraduate seminar in the Management Science & Engineering Department on organizational friction.

If you are not a Stanford student, there are still many ways to learn from our faculty and guest speakers. As mentioned, you can listen to and react to our Friction Podcast. Also watch for one of free videos and live events produced by Stanford, which increasingly address friction. These include a webinar the Huggy and I did on “Organizational Drag” and a speech I gave on Scaling Up Excellence, which foreshadows The Friction Project. I especially recommend the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series, which has a remarkable line-up of speakers (Many of whom address aspects of friction) that you can see live every Wednesday at Stanford during the school year. Nearly all past speeches—going back some 20 years-- are available online, both in their entirety or in bite-size pieces

3. Participate in a Stanford professional development program. Friction is one of the key topics that Huggy and I, along with Stanford colleagues including master design thinkers Perry Klebahn, Jeremy Utley, Kathryn Segovia, weave into the professional development programs that we teach at Stanford. We blend lectures, analysis of cases, and hands-on exercises in the classes we teach through the Stanford Business School and the Stanford Center for Professional Development. Friction is among the main themes that participants tackle in the on campus executive program we lead such as Customer-focused Innovation and it runs through many of the courses in our (largely) online Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate. In Fall of 2017, we experimented with a day-long in-person class on organizational friction for participants in the Innovation and Entrepeneurship program: 60 executives, managers, and entrepreneurs listened to lectures, engaged in discussion, did experiential exercises, and—in the afternoon-- ventured out into the Stanford campus to observe destructive friction in places including restaurants, the book store, and post office. Then they developed and tested prototypes to dampen such friction. We will continue to teach and develop new Stanford classes and programs on organizational friction for executives, managers, and other professionals.


4. Join our Affiliates Program

This affiliates program is for curious and engaged leaders and organizations that are committed to ongoing learning from and with us, from our colleagues and students, and from each another—especially about how and why change happens in organizations. Participating companies support and participate in Designing Organizational Change classes, meet regularly with Stanford faculty and one another (especially in small and focused gatherings), and have the opportunity to participate in Stanford research and case studies that are interest to their companies and Stanford faculty. The program’s current focus areas are: 1) driving innovation in large organizations and 2) discovering practical solutions for reducing friction, frustration and fatigue in organizations while maintaining necessary complexity. Visit the Designing Organizational Change website to learn more.


5. Book us for a speech or workshop. Huggy and I do occasional keynote speeches or workshops for companies, non-profits, government, and professional associations. Our speeches and workshops on our book, Scaling Up Excellence, consider many causes and cures for destructive friction. For example, we discuss how the best organizations treat subtraction of ineffective and cumbersome practices as a way of life. We also consider about how scaling well requires constructive frictio-- such as adding constraints so people can focus on what matters most and slowing down to “nail it” before you “scale it,” to develop products, services, and practices that actually work before spreading them far and wide. We began doing keynote speeches and short workshops on the latest ideas from The Friction Project in late 2017 and expect to many more in the coming years. Contact Brightsight to book Huggy and contact Big Speak to book Bob.