Let's go back 10,000-12,000 years, when humans have yet to make strides in basic machines. In our world, the invention of the wheel makes things easy to move, starting a transportation revolution. This will eventually lead to new technologies, and eventually the rise of more complicated machines.
What if the wheel was never invented? In this world, humans discover a gel-like substance that, when put on an object, immediately reduces friction. All of a sudden, pushing a boulder across a grassy field is more like pushing a boulder across an icy pond - but even easier. The effects of friction can be almost totally neglected.
This leads to a different type of transportation revolution. All of a sudden, the coolest new way to get around is in large sleds with their undersides coated with this gel. Soon, horses are domesticated - way ahead of schedule - as it becomes clear that putting them side by side in front of a sled is a great way to pull heavy loads.
Will this society ever be motivated to invent the wheel (assuming that pulleys are created not out of axles, but out of gel-coated blocks)?
Related points can be found in In a society of flying beings, would the wheel ever be invented?, especially related to pulleys and the application of the wheel to transportation.