Part organizational design. Part therapy. Organizational psychologist and Stanford Professor Bob Sutton is back to tackle friction, the phenomenon that frustrates employees, fatigues teams and causes organizations to flounder and fail. Loaded with raw stories of time pressure, courage under ridiculous odds and emotional processing, FRICTION distills research insights and practical tactics to improve the way we work. Listen up as we take you into the friction and velocity of producing made-for-TV movies, scaling up design thinking, leading through crisis and more. Guests include Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn, Eric Ries of Lean Startup fame, and restaurateurs Craig and Annie Stoll; as well as academic leaders from Stanford University and beyond. FRICTION is a Stanford eCorner original series.
Turning Friction Into Fire: Lessons from Season 2
24:51In the final episode of season two, Stanford Professor Bob Sutton and producer Rachel Julkowski look for signs of hope in and lessons gleaned from our friction-filled world. We can’t fix every messy, frustrating organization overnight, but we can increase predictability for employees and start making it safer for everyone to share information that challenges us to see beyond our roles and experiences.
The Emperor Has No Clue
25:23Too much friction drives you crazy, but too little leaves you adrift. In this episode, Stanford Professor Bob Sutton and Hayagreeva Rao, professor in the Stanford Graduate School of Business and coauthor of Scaling Up Excellence, discuss their quest for the “just right” amount of friction. Sure, you can make structural changes, but you’ll never optimize friction if you don’t understand and deal with what people are feeling.
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Can't Stand the Heat? Get Rid of the Friction
26:14The temperature is higher and things move faster, but restaurant kitchens aren’t so different from any other workplace—you’ve got egos, stress, and the constant pressure to deliver. In this episode, Craig and Annie Stoll, husband and wife owners of the renowned San Francisco-based Delfina Restaurant Group, talk with Stanford Professor Bob Sutton about the organized chaos that rules restaurant kitchens. What keeps everything from going off the rails, the Stolls explain, is predictability and consistency.
Dear Micro-Manager, Control Yourself
25:56The modern workplace is killing people and no one cares. That’s the sobering conclusion of Jeffrey Pfeffer’s new book "Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It." In this episode, Stanford Professor Bob Sutton and Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, discuss the toxic workplace practices that are making employees not just miserable but sick. To cure this dangerous state of affairs, Pfeffer prescribes a healthy dose of butting out: companies need to stop micromanaging, and let employees do their work and go home.
Simple Rules Set You Free
23:24Rules get an unfairly bad rap. In this episode, Stanford Engineering Professor Kathleen Eisenhardt, author of Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, and Stanford Professor Bob Sutton discuss the virtues of structure and guidelines. As long as your rules are clear and customized to your organization, Eisenhardt says, they won’t get in your way. In fact, the right set of rules—everything from Michael Pollan’s “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” to “no emails on the weekend”—can keep teams focused, productive, and harmonious.
Sweet Rejection: Cutting Out the Noise
23:30You don’t need as many ideas as you think you do. In this episode, Stanford Professor Bob Sutton and Henning Piezunka, assistant professor at the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD), debunk brainstorming myths and talk about the importance of saving time and energy. Piezunka explains that rejecting ideas is a delicate art that can actually deepen relationships—and that saying “no” is much better than saying nothing.
Over, Under, Through: Fixing Government Friction
25:57Can you dampen friction in the bureaucracy-laden, ego-filled halls of the United States government? Yes-- you can, says Jennifer Anastasoff. As head of people for the United States Digital Service (USDS), a non-partisan tech group in the federal government created to better deliver government services and improve the lives of people in America, Anastasoff looked for people who cared about the USDS mission more than their own glory. In this episode, Anastasoff and Stanford Professor Bob Sutton talk about the importance of working behind the scenes to build consensus, and valuing results over recognition.
The Customers Made Us Scale It
19:30Many companies likes to think they’re practicing design thinking, but most of them are wrong. Sam Yen, former Chief Design Officer of SAP and now Managing Director at JP Morgan Chase & Company, speaks with Stanford Professor Bob Sutton about how the design thinking movement gets lost in translation. He shares how SAP harnessed the energy of customers to combat employee inertia and foot-dragging.
Productive Paranoia: Lights, Camera...Anxiety!
26:18If your stunt coordinator falls asleep in an important meeting, you can expect trouble later, says Hollywood executive producer Sheri Singer. In this episode, Singer and Stanford Professor Bob Sutton talk about the value of worry in the workplace. Singer, executive producer of 37 made-for-TV movies including “Halloweentown,” says that in the fast-paced, budget-crunched world of moviemaking, she’s learned to keep a watchful eye for problem people on her film projects—and to trust her gut about small behaviors that may signal major problems.
Agile on the Edges: Managing Misfits
22:41To create a culture of innovation inside a large organization, leaders need to help their organizations become bimodal, says Michael Arena, chief talent officer at General Motors and author of Adaptive Space: How GM and other Companies are Disrupting Themselves and Transforming into Agile Organizations. In this episode, Arena and Stanford Professor Bob Sutton talk about ways large organizations can retain the benefits of size while also making room for internal disruption. It all comes down to attracting energizers and challengers-- the networked employees who motivate others to adopt new practices and the deviants who care enough about your mission to shake things up.