The Competitive Edge of Friction-Free Creativity

We’re living in a “friction free economy”. While the political world seems to have more friction than many of us can handle, our global economy is, according to business pundits, apparently free of the old-school realities that created barriers to growth and competition — it’s friction free.

And actually we all know this. Even if you’re not familiar with the term “friction free”, if you’ve ever taken an Uber or logged on to Facebook, you’re familiar with that freedom from friction. In fact, if you’re a working person today, you have experienced it: people, information, money and goods moving so quickly and freely that companies feel under pressure to keep up, much less stay ahead. A kind of wild west of business, borne of technology – digital and automated — but now being driven by a range of factors including cheaper communication, increased air travel, and a changing workforce.

“Friction free” sounds cool. And for consumers it is. But for businesses it can be anything but “cool.” Dog eat dog. Survival of the fittest. Winner take all. Choose your cliché. They’re all truer than ever. And the friction free business environment has left many companies, and the humans who staff them, wondering how in the world they survive, much less thrive.

The consensus seems to be that if we want to make our mark in this 21st century reality – if we want to grow our careers or our companies – we need one ability above all. One ability that you might say is already so played. And that might seem so basic it takes you back to the paper, crayons and glue of grammar school: Creativity. Fortune broke it down into ingenuity, imagination, and openness to new ideas, which is essentially a gussied up version of creativity. Whether you call it creativity, imagination or innovation, we all know in our business and career we need to be thinking beyond the status quo, because that status quo will likely be short lived.

In this 21st century workplace, ideas are our currency. And new ideas and ways of working are golden. If you cannot finds ways of ideating and recreating on a regular basis, you will quickly meet a better version of yourself – in the form of a competitor who offers a better service than you. An employee who offers a better version of themselves than you.

Which is why we talk about human connection as the foundation of a 21st century workplace. Because that human connection is the ingredient that enables a friction free work environment where creativity is allowed to flow.

So how can we foster human connection in the workplace? For starters, we can take five minutes to reflect rather than react – connecting with our own thoughts and ideas in order to share them with our colleagues. Once we’ve dealt with our own internal friction, we turn to our colleagues. When we take the time to talk through opportunities rather than type out a message about them, we’re eliminating the chance for the friction of misunderstanding, opening wider channels of connection with colleagues where collective creativity happens. In other words, in order to flourish, creativity must be nurtured little by little every day. And that requires workplaces that value and validate the need for quality human connection.

It might seem counter intuitive talking so much about “human connection” when we attribute so much of the successes in this friction free economy to technological achievement. But within that very same context, when we look closely, we find that human connection has been one of the greatest assets necessary for those very achievements. And it’s the key to keeping your business and career friction free, where creativity thrives.

Written by Jillian Reilly