The IKEA Effect
Vol. IX of The Sunday Selects
Happy Sunday. Welcome to the curatorial issue of Path Nine where I share recommendations, links, and ideas that will help you on your path to think, work, and live better.
I have some exciting things coming up, including a new course, a few articles on creator paths, the downside of good jobs, MVF, and more.
This week’s issue is 1,010 words and takes 4 mins to read.
1. Words to Live By: find ways to do less, not more.
2. Methodology: The IKEA Effect
▶︎ Return to Office Enters the Desperation Phase
▶︎ As workforce well-being dips, leaders ask: What will it take to move the needle?
▶︎ Modern Meditations: Scott Belsky
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The Sunday Selects
Notes, Links, and Ideas from Kevin K.
1. Words to Live By
My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do. - Francine Jay
This quote from Francine Jay resonates so much with me. I’ve shifted my thinking from the productivity porn-laden industry in which we live and work. What if we’re not productive for a minute? Do we wither away and die? Are we shunned? Will we never really be happy and healthy members of society?
Maybe. We keep working so we don’t have to find out.
But deep down, we instinctually know that doing more rarely gets us where we want to go, at least not long term. Working late may get you promoted, but it won’t give you balance in your relationships. Saying “Yes” may get you noticed at work, but it won’t help you do your best work.
The mental traps we create keep us from understanding what’s important. It’s the number one principle in my world — do less, but do it better.
TL;DR find ways to do less, not more.
The IKEA Effect
The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias that describes the tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on products that they partially or wholly create themselves, such as furniture from IKEA.
There’s always that stereotypical craftsperson on Craigslist, selling a one-of-a-kind masterpiece for an insane price. They know how much each piece of wood costs. They know every meticulous detail that went into building it. And they desperately need you to know that it’s not just a piece of furniture; it’s a piece of their soul. The blood, sweat, and tears embedded in his creation are worth far more than you could ever understand. That’s the IKEA effect, and it’s one of the most common traps I see in the startup world, and I’ve certainly been guilty of it myself.
The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias that causes us to value items more highly if we create them ourselves. Putting effort, time, and personal investment into the creation process drives this effect, increasing the sense of ownership and attachment to the final product.
Not only are we susceptible to the IKEA effect when building for ourselves, but we’re also susceptible as consumers. Companies like Airbnb, Lego, Blue Apron, Notion, and Roam are all great examples of the IKEA effect. Each company allows customers to enter the IKEA effect and participate in building — directly or indirectly. In doing so, they create incredibly loyal customers and enable the DIY nature of the product to become a feature instead of a bug.
↓ The Downside: the downside here is that we frequently overvalue what we build. We aren’t great at assessing the actual value of something we create because we have a psychological need to feel competent. When building for ourselves, we should be careful not to over-invest or become too emotionally attached.
↑ The Upside: the IKEA effect can help us build deeper ownership of our end products since we can tangibly evaluate the amount of time and energy invested. But, researchers found that a simple solution exists that can reverse this behavior. Simply disassembling our creation can counteract its effect, removing our emotional attachment and allowing us to remain more objective.
➤ The Takeaways:
Manage your emotional attachment - don’t become fully absorbed by what you’re building. Removing emotional attachment allows us to more accurately evaluate our work, which is the only way to grow and learn.
Get objective feedback - instead of further confirming your bias, always seek feedback from a neutral party or someone who won’t shy away from giving direct feedback about what you’re building.
Treat everything as an experiment - last but not least, change your mindset. When everything is a test, what we build becomes less fragile and essential and instead is just another test.
“You can interrupt each other without being rude when you’re in person,” said Mr. Medina, whose company, Outreach, is now in the office on a hybrid basis. “In a Zoom conversation, you have to let somebody finish their thought.”
Yikes. To be clear, I’m not trying to pick on Manny — Outreach is a fantastic company — but this is rough. And I know it’s easy to take things out of context and twist them, but it’s hard to imagine verbalizing such thoughts without expecting some blowback. Sadly, it feels like what we constantly hear from out-of-touch leaders trying desperately to regain control of the changing workforce. It’s not about the work; it’s about control. Let’s start by being honest.
“60% of employees are thinking about leaving their job for one that better supports their mental well-being.”
Deloitte, my former employer, has not necessarily always been the best representative of what we’d call work-life balance. Consultancies have historically embodied the ‘up or out’ mantra, forcing people to climb the corporate ladder at all costs or be forced to leave — with no exceptions. And while I can’t speak to their current practices, I am pleased to see that their surfacing data may significantly impact the people, places, and practices for the future of work. If we see employees force a reprioritization of mental health, how will this reshape company benefits, policies, and practices?
The next generation will have far fewer choices in their everyday lives. We live in a world generalized to the masses. When you go to an e-commerce website, you navigate by size, color, fit, style, whether it’s marketed for men or women. When you sit down at a restaurant and look at the menu, much of it may be irrelevant to you – maybe you’re allergic to something or have an aversion to something else.
I think future experiences will be personalized for each of us in a very dramatic way.
I’ve always been a big fan of Scott Belsky, author, investor, and founder of Behance. When his book “Making Ideas Happen” was released in 2012, I quickly devoured it. I currently have many Action Method products on my desk and have used the system off and on for years. So yeah, I’m a fan. But I’m not a fan because of the products. I’m a fan because of his strengths as a generalist and his ability to transcend the common pitfalls that many generalists fall into and instead turn ideas into actions. This piece from The Generalist provides insight into Belsky’s views and approach to many exciting aspects of his life and work and is well worth the read.
That’s it for this week. As always, if you like the content, please do me a favor and share it with your friends — this newsletter runs on overpriced whiskey and reader engagement.
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Thanks for reading, and see you next week,
— Kevin K.