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Addition Sickness & Software

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Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao, in their upcoming work entitled "The Friction Project," identify a phenomenon they call "addition sickness" in organizations.1

Addition sickness refers to the tendency of organizations to keep adding more tasks, processes, or structures without considering the value or necessity of these additions. This behaviour persists even though it wastes resources, burdens employees, slows down work, and drives away customers.

Here's a working hypothesis on the downside of the habit of continuing to add software solutions to your operations.

The more systems you use:

  • The higher the "Toggle Tax" or context switching that occurs 2,
  • Which increases the symptoms of ADT (Attention Deficit Trait) 3,
  • And drives up the time wasted in task switching 4;
  • Which leads to more time being required to complete work;
  • Which leads to longer working hours;
  • Which leads to less downtime away from working;
  • Which leads to higher levels of stress, fatigue and burnout;
  • Which eventually leads to employee churn, loss of organizational knowledge, reduced levels of service and higher customer attrition;
  • Which reduces profits.

What are we missing in this hypothesis?


1. The Friction Project

2. Toggle Tax

3. Driven to Distraction

4. Task Switching Costs


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