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The IKEA Effect

The end of another school holidays is nigh, and I’m reflecting on whether I made the most of it.

As a sole parent, school holidays for me mean taking part in the (non) balancing act of working whilst my children are at home. With the weather being a tad rainy, my kids have spent a lot of their time cooking up a storm so “mum can get stuff done”. A part from a wide range of slime, some amazing culinary delights have come out of our kitchen in the last fortnight, most of which have been quite edible.

As tempting as getting my kids involved in all of the household duties sounds, I have noticed a bit of a pattern when they do. That pattern being, the more duties I give them that requires their time and effort, the better the day is for all of us, on all counts.

I’m not saying they jump gleefully up off the couch when I ask them to vacuum the floor, in fact, my requests are most often initially met with an eye roll. I have even heard them singing “…it’s a hard knock life… for us…’ Annie-style whilst doing their chores. But on completion of most household duties, there is always a large element of self-pride that comes from what they’ve achieved.

When kids are involved in creating something, the value they place on whatever results from this, increases. One only needs to see the look on a child’s face when they’ve made a piece of craft to show you.

Us adults are the same. The more involved we are and the more effort we put into something, the more value we place on it. It’s almost like part of us becomes a part of whatever we have worked on.

Research has shown that we value products that we have constructed ourselves or been a part of more than someone else’s creation.

The IKEA effect, as it’s known, is a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products that they took part in creating. Meaning, the big flat pack you took home from your last trip to IKEA that you constructed into some sort of useable piece of furniture, is quite valuable in your eyes, just because you build it. Even if you couldn’t find the last screw and it’s sort of wobbly.

The exact same product you might have been able to buy somewhere else fully constructed, will have lessor value in your eyes, than the masterpiece that you put your blood, sweat, probably a bit of swearing and tears into.

The Ikea Effect is not necessarily about a completed perfect product or job, but rather the satisfaction of the process that we were involved in.

This increase in valuation of self-made products makes me wonder whether we can use this in other areas of our lives.

Whether it’s in our personal or professional life, maybe inviting and then allowing the people in our lives to put more effort into their roles would solve some of our issues. After all, us humans have a need to feel competent and valued. The more we value something we’ve been a part of, the more we are likely to repeat it doing it. We just need the chance to do the work.

Instead of dictating to the people in our lives, whether that be our partners, colleagues or kids, allowing them to have more of a say, come up with ideas, be proactive, or take ownership. Inspiring people to have the chance to have a role, take part, and be the best they can be, often has happier outcomes, even when they’re not perfect.

Yes it’s sometimes easier to get it done the quickest way possible, without the mess and fuss. But the value will never be as high.

So next time you have the urge to get something done quickly at home or work, remember back to when you were faced with your first IKEA flat pack and how good it felt to see that completed piece of furniture you were so much a part of.

Now give someone else the chance to feel that way. We all like to be a part of something.

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