What makes a bullet fly? Many answer with; gunpowder. And although this is partly true, the most important element is its aerodynamic shape. Think about this, the faster an object moves, the stronger the resistance or drag. In other words, add more gunpowder, you simply add more drag. So gunpowder explains the initial velocity, but the reason a bullet is able to fly so far is that it’s aerodynamic. It has been built to reduce the friction operating against it.
This is a useful metaphor for understanding our tendency to think in fuel rather than friction. When people fail to buy a product, listen to a directive, or comply with a law, marketers, managers and policymakers tend to focus on selling their message harder. However, researchers at Northwestern University say there is a better way. Instead of selling harder, fight the frictions that hold people back.
Army recruiters for example found that many young people were excited by army life however, many never enlisted. It was the anxiety of what parents will say, how they’ll respond to the idea of them joining the army, that led them to simply never follow their dream. The recruiters could have created a more exciting campaign, but instead, they decided to reduce emotional friction. They created scripts that helped the student have that conversation at home. There are even cases of recruiters who joined the student when the conversation took place.
Although it’s often easier and sexier to think about the big solution rather than the myriad of small solutions, the latter will probably be the most effective. So next time you’re in a brainstorm don’t forget to ask yourself those questions that will help you find out where you can reduce friction.