For my fourth post in the Cognitive Bias series, I’d like to talk about another fun one, the Ikea Effect. The Ikea Effect, first recognized by Norton, Mochon & Ariely (2012), indicates that people put disproportionate value on items they participated in the creation of. Ha. Just….HAAAA. Yes. Yes Ikea. You have made me love you all the more now.
For those of us who live near a coveted Ikea, you know that this box store sells some pretty cool stuff at very reasonable prices. The catch? If its bigger than a teapot, you’re going to have to put it together. You take your nutty side spinning cart into a big ass warehouse, you somehow load flat boxes onto that cart, then you drag them out to your car. You get the boxes home and then the real fun begins. Pages and pages of instructions now challenge you to assemble your bookshelf yourself. They give you most of the tools necessary. And the instructions are actually easy to understand. But deviate from those instructions in even the smallest way and you’re going to be spending the whole day trying to figure it out.
Now some people love this. They love the challenge. It’s a puzzle. Some don’t. And for them, Ikea does offer an assembly and delivery service. For the rest of us, it’s the necessary evil that we must get through because the furniture is so affordable. But who would have thunk that the mere act of putting it together ourselves would make us value it more? It actually makes sense. Because, we have invested in it. Our own efforts have created this. If there are blood, sweat and/or tears involved, you’ve obviously not followed the instructions.
So how do we take this concept and apply it to work? My job doesn’t involve any assembly. But the core principle is what matters here. If we invest in making something, we think its more valuable. This could be applied to work product certainly, but I’m more interested in how this relates to our ideation.
I think my ideas are pretty spectacular. And if I think something is a good idea, then I’m usually not going to be swayed without some fairly substantial evidence. This pride of being involved in the conceptualization, when related to the Ikea Effect can explain why some people get hung up on their “good idea”, and certainly why I sometimes think my ideas are the best out there. So how do we leverage this at work?
I have an absolute nonnegotiable thing that I do in every game development effort. I make sure that no matter how small or big one of my stakeholder’s ideas is. No matter how good or bad it is. Its going to be honored in the product. Now, if they have a whole game idea that isn’t going to work, I will dissuade them. But I will still make sure some element of their idea is represented somewhere, somehow in the final product. Does it work? Every single time. Once I have incorporated an element of my stakeholder’s idea into any effort, I have created a champion. I have made it personal for them. I have guaranteed that each stakeholder has some personal investment in the success or failure of that effort, and that they will work that much harder on it because they have skin in the game.
Have you ever tried to move Ikea furniture? If you have any and you’ve ever had to move, you’ve tried this. Usually, it doesn’t go well. Why? Because its low-quality stuff that is meant to live in your one living room, but not meant to be a lifelong commitment. Ideas are lifelong commitments. My ideas have certainly evolved, and that can be seen in my body of work, but I can put my finger on anything I’ve ever developed and see the marks that both I and others have left on it. So, are my games priceless? Yes. They are to me. And they are to everyone who’s ideas have been incorporated into them.
Reference: Norton, M. I., Mochon, D., & Ariely, D. (2012). The IKEA effect: When labor leads to love. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22, 453-460.