Strive for the IKEA Effect

I was in a board meeting the other day for a non-profit organization struggling to engage its constituents. Along with the staff, we were trying to find ways to keep people involved and motivated over time. So much work goes into programs and communications – but sometimes people still fail to listen and engage.Rather than focus on the reasons for the struggle, we decided to discuss the examples of success. Why were some programs especially successful?

One early discovery was that the programs organically conceived by participants, rather than staff, seemed to have a higher success rate. In addition, the programs with especially large programming committees (i.e. number of people leading the event) were also quite successful.It was at this point that a fellow board member chimed in with the concept of the “IKEA effect.” When people buy furniture at IKEA, they are forced to assemble it themselves. As a result, people report a high degree of satisfaction with their IKEA furniture – largely because of the greater sense of ownership from the labor required to assemble the furniture.

For those of us that cook, we know that the meal always tastes better after the labor of making it. This do-it-yourself-to-love-it-more phenomenon presents an invaluable opportunity for leaders of teams – and brands. When you can set up projects for others – or even a product – with a dose of assembly required, you are likely to garner a higher level of commitment.

Of course, by having their customers assemble their own furniture, IKEA runs the risk of poor execution and improper assemblies that reflect poorly on their brand. Similarly, we must accept the risk of deviations from our expectations as a reasonable cost for empowering our teams and our customers. In many cases, the benefits of do-it-yourself are likely to outweigh the costs.

As leaders, we must challenge ourselves to let others create what we have in mind, if only to accomplish the ultimate goal of engaging others.

More insights on: Clients, Leadership

Scott Belsky

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Scott Belsky is Adobe's Vice President of Community and Co-Founder & Head of Behance, the leading online platform for creatives to showcase and discover creative work. Scott has been called one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business" by Fast Company, and is the author of the bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen.
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