A series of experiments at Harvard Business School by Michael Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely,  found that people value products more when they have put work into assembling them.

In one experiment, participants each assembled an item of IKEA furniture and then were asked how much they would pay for it. Then a new group of people were shown the items and asked how much they would pay for it.

The assemblers valued their own items significantly more than the new group did. In another experiment (involving origami) they valued their own amateurish creations more than those made by experts.

Here’s an accessible video of Dan Ariely explaining these experiments (which also made me feel better as I realised that I’m better at assembling IKEA products than a bestselling author) and here’s the research paper (again, fairly accessibly written).

Implications For Managers

  1. If you involve people in shaping visions for the future, rather than just imposing change on them or trying to ‘sell’ it to them, the more they will value the changes and feel a sense of ownership of them.Consequently, they will be more likely to participate willingly rather than grudgingly.
  2. Watch out for the potential downside of the effect – it suggests you will be more likely to overvalue internally-developed ideas compared to those that originate elsewhere (the “not invented here” syndrome).

The more original and innovative your idea, the stronger the IKEA Effect is likely to be, so the longer you are likely to cling on to it if it doesn’t work out.

Use Appreciative Inquiry To Harness The IKEA Effect

Appreciative Inquiry gives you an easy-to-follow methodology for involving everyone in shaping change. It also has some worthwhile side effects:

  • It leads to more trust and more open communication within teams
  • It makes changes more likely to succeed, because the people who have to implement the changes on the front line have been involved in shaping it, giving a welcome injection of realism.
  • Because Appreciative Inquiry has you look at what’s working already before you envision your the future you want, the vision is built on a solid foundation. People will find the vision more credible, because they have reference experiences of aspects of it happening already, even if only in part.

Find out more about Appreciative Inquiry here.

The IKEA Effect: How To Use It For Staff Engagement
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2 thoughts on “The IKEA Effect: How To Use It For Staff Engagement

    1. Ideally it’s even more than people buying into the vision. When people are involved in co-creating the vision, it doesn’t have to be sold to them because it’s already theirs.

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