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Productive Friction at eBay

Posted by: Rob Hof on July 10, 2005

Ever since I read John Hagel’s and John Seely Brown’s writings about “productive friction,” I’ve been intrigued by the idea but couldn’t quite understand how it worked in the real world. A key theme in their new book, “The Only Sustainable Edge,” productive friction is the notion that having the work through the hassles of building and maintaining even difficult business relationships can accelerate innovation.

A new post on Hagel’s blog, which connects that idea to the often misunderstood kvetching of merchants on eBay that I blogged about recently, finally helps me understand what he means. “The recent gathering of vendors in eBay Live! illustrated this learning opportunity,” he writes. “Hof suggests that the friction generated by such interactions can often be mistaken for unhappiness, rather than as an encouraging sign that people are engaged and care about outcomes.” Exactly right. Now I get it.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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