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Are Your Ideas Really That Good? Beware the IKEA Effect…

Did you know that “do it yourself” all but guarantees you will have a deep emotional connection to whatever product you create, build, or construct?

Even if the final product is somehow flawed or imperfect, a research team actually proved that if you build it yourself, you will all but fall in love with it. But these research findings have all kinds of ramifications in business and in life…and the IKEA effect can prove detrimental when you create or conceive ideas or products that may in fact not be that good!

Behavioral economics researcher and author, Dan Ariely, recently published a breakthrough article with colleagues Daniel Mochon, of Yale University, and Michael I. Norton, of Harvard Business School in Boston, on how labor is not just meaningful, it is marketable. They harken back to the famous marketing studies of the 1950’s when instant cake mixes were introduced to the market. The concept was to save the “busy housewife” time, creating mixes that required simply adding water, mixing, and popping in the oven. While on paper the idea seemed fantastic, when they hit the market, the cake mixes failed. The research done to find out why is the foundation of this “IKEA Effect.”

When marketers dove in to uncover what went wrong with the cake mixes, they soon found that it was, believe it or not, too easy. The target market, housewives, did not feel invested in the process and thus, left no value on the product. When one of the marketing geniuses actually added a step to the cake making process, sales soared and instant cake mixes became a mainstay in nearly every home in the country. Simply by adding one step in the mix process, cracking an egg, suddenly the domestic goddesses felt they were actually baking. The mix was then more difficult to stir—which made the work more laborious and thus, more rewarding!

Fast-forward to the 21st Century:  The global furniture giant IKEA has learned well from such research. By creating products of high design and low price, they became an instant hit across the globe. However, there’s something more that leads to an almost irrational bond with these products for many of their customers.

The price is low for IKEA products largely because they take labor out of the equation. With a Phillips screwdriver, an allen wrench and rubber mallet, IKEA customers can very literally build an entire home’s worth of furniture on a very tight budget. But what happens when they do? According to these behavioral economics researchers, these customers fall in love with their IKEA creations. Even when there are parts missing and the items are incorrectly built, customers in the IKEA study still loved the fruits of their labors.

While this is seemingly quite benign, the research went a step further and found that the IKEA Effect is not only present, but rampant in business. Companies that have passion for that which they create, sometimes forget to ask the key question: Is it really that good? The market is filled with examples like this. Remember the Apple Newton? New Coke? Colgate Kitchen Entrees (this is true), Microsoft Web TV? There was so much push and internal passion to get each one of these products to market, no one ever bothered to ask, “Is this really a good idea?”

While it’s easy to armchair quarterback, there is a critical lesson to be learned. At FreemanXP, creativity is our currency. We all fall in love with the ideas we create, nourish, and bring to life. But we have to have the guts to offer them up to the rest of the team to ask pointedly, “Is this really a good idea?”

Think of FreemanXP as a cross section of perspectives all coming together to support the goals and objective of our clients. We offer these perspectives within a culture of structured egalitarianism. Simply anyone anywhere at FreemanXP is equal when it comes to ideas. The best idea wins, period. We then add structure to build on those ideas and bring them to life.

It’s important for our customers to know any idea that comes out of these walls has been thoroughly filtered through the FreemanXP process and the very best minds here agree, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the right idea at the right time for the right client.

And that’s when the magic happens.


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