Communications | Behavior Matters!

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Is Organizational Friction Costing you Money?

Organizational friction is not a common term, yet it could be one of the biggest reasons that your company is not performing to its full potential.

How much is friction costing you?

Friction in human terms is the unnecessary resistance that a person encounters when trying to achieve a task. Organizational friction is the resistance created by policy, social, or environmental factors within a company.

Bad organization friction creates unnecessary resistance within an organization and impedes performance. It causes wasted time, wasted energy wasted resources, and overall frustration. Good organizational friction creates positive resistance that discourages negative behavior, sloppy thinking or risky shortcuts. 

Bad organizational friction impacts employees in multiple ways. It makes tasks longer, and more prohibitive which in turn can sap our motivation. The more friction that is present the less likely we are to partake in a positive behavior. Inversely, as Jeff Bezos states, “When you reduce friction, make something easy, people do more of it.” 

Let’s set the stage with a simple example of each type of organizational friction and the losses it can correlate to.

  • Policy – this is friction resulting from organizational policy or rules such as a manager requiring all team members to attend an hour-long meeting 2x per week when 10 of them only need to be in the meeting for 15 mins. Say those employees average $30/ hour. That’s $30 (hour wage) x .75 (wasted time in meeting) x 52 (weeks per year) x 10 (employees who could leave meeting after 15 minutes) = $11,700 in salary on one team alone, not accounting for billable hours and productivity. What if you have 100 teams all doing the same? 1,000 teams?
  • Social – this is friction that is caused by social norms or cultural expectations. Traditional hierarchy can lead to this type of organizational friction. If you create a culture that doesn’t encourage open dialogue and respond well to constructive criticism of leadership, employees will be scared to speak up because of the fear of negative social consequences. This can inhibit an employee from bringing up an issue that could have been avoided, such as doubling down on sunk costs, falling victim to groupthink, or making a poor strategic decision. These are some of the costliest mistakes an organization can make.
  • Environmental – this friction is caused when the infrastructure or processes in place create resistance to positive behaviors. Imagine creating an employee health challenge that encourages exercise during the day, but not providing access to shower facilities. Employees will be less likely to partake in the challenge if they need to go elsewhere to shower before going back to work.

Roger Dooley, a neuromarketer, first introduced us to this concept on The Behavioral Grooves podcast and in his book Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage (link).

In the book, he uses the metaphor of a slide (the playground type, not the PowerPoint type, although PowerPoints can cause friction too). Think of behavior as being driven by the following*: a nudge (the initial push off of the top of the slide), the angle (the slope of the slide can be steep or shallow providing different motivation), and friction (the resistance to easily going down the slide).   

Companies can face friction in any number of places. Organizational friction inhibits employees from operating at their full potential. A report by Newtronix estimated $1.8 trillion is lost each year in the US alone due to barriers in workforce productivity.

Knowledge workers spend over 80% of their time in meetings and responding to requests. The average time an employee works before being interrupted is around 12-minutes. For an average company, each email that is sent costs roughly a dollar in labor costs – a midsize firm can easily spend over $1 million dollars a year, just on email.

Each of these factors has a cost to them. They reduce employee productivity, increase their stress level, lead to disengagement, and increase turnover – inevitably costing your organization money.

Some other examples of organizational friction points include:

  • Routing all expense reports through two layers of management
  • Communication that isn’t clear or well understood so employees need additional clarification on what they need to know or do
  • Copying more people on an e-mail than necessary
  • Requiring team members to come to an hour-long meeting when they are really only needed for 5-minutes
  • A culture that doesn’t support speaking out and is always deferential to those in higher leadership positions
  • Social norms about how much work gets done in a shift

If companies can identify where these friction points are and then remove them (or reduce them), the impact on the bottom line would be significant.  It is an unseen cost that is draining the energy and performance of people from across the organization. 

Navigate the slides below to see how The Lantern Group eases friction in organizations using behavioral insights.

The Lantern Group’s Solution to Organizational Friction

*Roger also includes gravity as one of the key aspects here but it doesn’t apply specifically to our discussion, so I left it out.  If you want to find out more, here is a really good short article on Dooley’s persuasion slide in a UX context

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Shaping Company Culture Through Communication

Words matter.

A study conducted by Gary Latham PhD, replaced 12 words in an e-mail from a company president to his employees to demonstrate the power of word choice.

 A Powerful Reinforcement Loop With a Common Thread
A Powerful Reinforcement Loop With a Common Thread

Half of the company received the president’s original e-mail and half of the company received the same e-mail with 12 achievement-focused words added in. The result? After a week, objectively measured performance showed an increase in effectiveness by 15% and efficiency by 35% for the employees who received the achievement centric email.

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The Top 5 Reasons Businesses Need Behavioral Science

By Kurt Nelson, Ph.D. & Ben Granlund

Imagine getting the chance to earn $2 for doing absolutely nothing. Would you turn this down?  Most people say no, yet study after study shows that people often refuse the $2 payout, sometimes more.

You’re probably wondering, “why?”

This strange behavior comes down to how we perceive fairness and retribution and can be observed in a simulation behavioral scientists call “the Ultimatum Game.”

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Creating Your Total Rewards Budget? Think: “Culture, Trust, Communication”

Message us here or email us at for help to optimize your reward program communications & impact.  

The New Year is rapidly approaching. If you are in the IC world, the pressure is on you to formulate and calculate budgets for next year’s incentive and rewards programs. 

Like most, you need to balance: rewarding top performers, targeting the right motivators, harmonizing cash and non-cash incentives, and staying aligned with your corporate philosophy. All the while, fitting these factors into your overarching financial budgets.

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behavioral design

Lessons from Duarte Design’s “A Visual Workshop”

The Lantern Group recently had the pleasure of attending one of Nancy Duarte’s workshops in Santa Clara, CA – led by facilitator Mike Pacchione. The workshop was a one-day event called “A Visual Story” and focused on how to design and deliver persuasive presentations.

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Engaging Your Sales Force With Direct Mail

In today’s hyperconnected technology-driven world, it can be easy to overlook the simple time-tested solutions of the past. This holds true for communicating with and motivating your sales force.

With the consistent advent of new communications, new sciences, and new methodologies – shaking things up with a new (old) method can be a refreshing way to tap into your teams’ motivators.

Let’s take a little step back in time and talk about direct mail. Simple, well designed, customized mailers that tap into key behavioral insights can be just as effective as the newest technologies or communication tools when utilized correctly.

Think about it, we are flooded with messaging all day every day – both personal and business. With each organizational department trying to get their message out on top of that, it can be hard to manage all of the information. Technology can get lost in the fray, but unexpected personalized direct mail can disrupt the norm and grab back that attention. Combine this with behavioral science and you have a simple yet powerful tool.

Let’s take a look at an example, a postcard series we designed to help top achievers keep achieving and to nudge bottom achievers to end the plan period on a high note.

One customized to a high performer:

And one customized to a moderate performer:

While these may seem simple, there are some key behavioral insights that are being strategically targeted to drive performance.

In both versions we utilize:

  • Idiosyncratic Fit: We have higher motivation if we think that a program is customized to us. By adding the employee’s name, stats, and a customized message to help them improve we tap into this drive. Each message is framed for the greatest impact based on their performance and adding the physical component of the postcard further personalizes it.
  • Social Proof: We look to others to see how we should behave. There are two elements at play here. One: the messaging addresses the performance of their peers, pushing them to stay with or ahead of the pack. Two: this can be shared with a spouse, partner, or family member who can provide an additional level of support – for example, the reminder of a chance to partake in an awards trip with a partner can be very impactful.

Now, note that in the high performer card we tap into:

  • Loss Aversion: The pain of loss is greater than the pleasure of a similar gain. For high performers, the idea of having something valuable and then losing it is far more motivating than a “carrot” on a string.

And in the average performer card we use:

  • Gain Messaging: Framing the statement to focus on what can be gained from increased performance. With the moderate performers, where the perception is that there is more to be gained than lost, the gain messaging can drive a higher participation rate.

Try this with your sales force or reach out with the form below for help customizing and implementing this simple, effective technique within your team!

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Behavioral Grooves

Back in September,  I partnered with Tim Houlihan to start “a monthly gathering of curious minds” which we called Behavioral Grooves.  We thought it would be interesting to get like-minded people together to talk about applying behavioral science to life and work.

We had no idea if others would be interested in this…

We announced the meetup and were hoping to get at least a few of the friends that we had contacted to show up.  We ended up with 24 people for that first session where we talked about habits – how they are formed and what people can do to improve them.

We were thrilled!

From there, it took off.  We have over 180 members signed up to our meetup group and it is growing fast.  We have had three monthly sessions as of early January 2018 and our fourth is lined up for two weeks from today.  We have over 20 people who have made it to two or more of the sessions.

I guess we struck a nerve.

For our second session, we invited Professor James Heyman to speak and thought, hey, since he’s here, why don’t we interview him and make a podcast out of it.  Thus, our Behavioral Grooves podcast was born.  Tim and I both loved that so much that we decided that we didn’t want to wait for the next Behavioral Grooves session to record our next one – so we started to invite people and interview them – both live and over the internet.

To date, we have seven interviews recorded and three more in the works.  These podcasts mirror the Behavioral Grooves sessions in that they are conversational in nature where we geek out over behavioral science and how we can apply behavioral science insights into our daily work and lives.

They have been a blast!

In reflecting on this, it appears to me that these two outlets provide us with a way of both learning and sharing.  We want to be advocates for good, ethical use of behavioral science.  We believe that there is much to learn and we can improve our work and lives by understanding and by applying these principles in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.

We also realized that we love the community that this is creating.  A community of curious minds who are interested in science and the application of that science.  A community of people that we can bounce ideas off of.  A community of people that can push us to think about things from new perspectives.

This is ultimately what we have been building and hope that it grows and provides a place and outlet for others, as well as ourselves.

If you are ever in Minneapolis on the third Thursday of the month – please come and join us at our meetup (find out more info here) and if you can’t make that, please listen in to our podcasts (click here to find the latest).

Come and join our community of curious minds!



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5 Tips to HR on Effective Communication

Employee Communication

At the IPMI Institute HR conference in Miami we sat down with 10 HR executives from various industries and exchanged insights. We discussed what  was going on in their world and how behavioral science can help the HR community.

We noticed three overarching themes:

  • Organizations are finding cultural change hard
  • Organizations have not had significant success at engaging their employees
  • Organizations don’t have the bandwidth to prioritize employee communications—although they know doing so is important 

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Why Graphics Matter – Part 1 (of 2)

Why Graphics Matter – Part 1 (of 2)

So far in our design series of blogs, we have touched upon the concept of applying behavioral science to graphic design, and how reducing cognitive load can increase understanding, reduce myopic focus and drive home the key points you want your audience to grasp.

To catch up, check them out here:

Be sure to follow us to stay informed!

Today we are going to dive deeper into the visual element and explore “why graphics matter.” We utilize the concepts we will lay out in our employee communications, but the value does not stop there. Whether you are in communications, marketing, advertising, or trying to engage employees through internal Communications, this will apply to you. So, sit back, relax, and absorb.

Graphics are fun, graphics are pretty (well some are, beauty is in the eye of the beholder), graphics make information less boring – but there is far more to graphics than one might expect. When properly used graphics:

(read more on cognitive load here)

People are visual, and we experience things through this medium. Let’s get into these benefits in a little more depth:

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Cognitive Load – What it is & Why it Matters

Back in January we introduced you to the concept of integrating Behavioral Science into Graphic Design. If you did not have a chance to read it, or for a recap, click here

Today we will expand a bit more on the idea of “cognitive load”.
Not only is cognitive load a valuable resource to utilize in graphic design; but it is also extremely valuable in communications, speaking engagements, presentation’s and an all-around useful tool for increasing the understanding of any subject.

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