The IKEA effect


The title of this week’s bias recalls the research conducted at Harvard by M. Norton, D. Mochon and D. Ariely. Ariely, in which the participants were asked to assemble products, fold origami and build Lego elements. This study showed how, once the assemblies were produced, the estimated value of their work became much greater or equal to that of similar works produced by experts. This is what the IKEA effect is all about: placing a high value on what we have helped to build, in direct relation to the effort and difficulty required to build it.

The implications of this effect in the company


The origin of the name is clear and evokes afternoons spent assembling Billy bookcases, Malm beds, Smastad children’s desks, a little regretting not having opted for a home assembly service. The time, energy and effort we put into assembling a piece of furniture makes it invaluable in our eyes, and this applies to everything we have built ourselves. Dan Ariely examines the IKEA effect on sales of cake mixes. When all you have to do in the bag is add water and bake, the product is not successful. Just make it more difficult, such as asking the consumer to add eggs or milk before baking, and immediately the product becomes more attractive. The implications of this effect in the company are interesting, particularly when thinking about product co-creation, which is indeed a trend in recent years. The increase in value due to the difficulty of construction has however a limit, different for each subject, which is given by the point of abandonment: when the construction becomes too difficult, we risk getting discouraged and giving up, in this way the object loses all its value.

The risk


Another interesting implication is on motivation and job satisfaction. It is interesting for managers to find the right mix of difficulty in the objectives, which allows those who achieve them to feel their value. The risk, that once we have made a great effort to contribute to the achievement, the perceived value is much higher than the objective value and therefore the rewards are not perceived as fair. Another risk, related to this effect, is to struggle to abandon an idea just because we have formed it through readings, conversations, energy and effort, or to have to abandon a bad project, on which we have already spent many hours…