The Power Friction Plays in our Everyday Decisions

by | Jun 21, 2022 | Leadership

Without friction, we cannot live our daily life. “Friction is the force that opposes motion between any surfaces that are in contact. There are at least four types of friction: static, sliding, rolling, and fluid friction. Static, sliding and rolling friction occur between solid surfaces. Fluid friction occurs in liquids and gases.”

How, then, does friction apply to decision-making? Kent Ingle[1] wrote a blog (2017) on How to Reduce Friction in Decision-Making, in which he suggests insightful thought on the challenges of being a leader in the process.  He calls fear of deciding “decision avoidance syndrome” due to reasons like “fear of consequences of a decision; not enough information for a good decision; not wanting to be accountable for a questionable/bad decision.”

“A leader leans into outcomes and accountability rather than avoids them; every decision has a consequence. … right or wrong. Most decisions aren’t fatal. The heart of the matter is that it’s hard to choose without clarity; lack of clarity creates friction.”  Ingle recommends how to reduce friction in decision-making:

  • Accept the reality of friction when deciding, matching what is said to what is done
  • Set aside time to plan to get clarity – where you want to go and how to get there
  • Put it on paper to see the milestones and the timing of the journey
  • Review it with a mentor; you can’t do life or leadership alone
  • Create a decision tree with every possible logical decision. There’s time to mull things over and time to act. Right or wrong, you will recover from any decision; none is fatal.

Leaders make decisions to help followers; without decisions, no one follows. Decisive leaders are followed. It is better to err on the side of doing than on the side of avoidance.

Here is a short video from The Holdsworth Center that helps with decision-making: Defining roles makes for better decision-making.

Education leaders talk about one of the most helpful tools they have taken away from the Holdsworth experience: a framework for making decisions. Clarifying up front how the decision will be made and what role everyone will play makes for swift and effective decisions. Learn more about decision-making here.

Take-away: Decision-making is not magic; it needs creative thought and adequate information with insights to formulate clear direction and consequences.  This is hard work for the brain; one decision at a time, please.


[1] Ingle, Kent, (2017); How to Reduce Friction in Decision-Making;