Those that write the plan, don’t fight the plan

I was in the lift yesterday and overheard a conversation between two guys who had obviously just been on a training course together. As part of the course they had to build something – I didn’t hear what it was – and one of the guys said; “It probably wasn’t very good, but I made it myself, so I thought it was amazing.” The other guy replied “Yeah, there’s something in that.” I had to bite my tongue from joining in and saying; “There sure is. Let me tell you what the research says.

The research, undertaken by Michael I. Norton (Harvard Business School), Daniel Mochon  (Rady School of Management) and Dan Ariely (Duke University), was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The article, entitled ‘The “IKEA Effect”: When Labor Leads to Love‘, covers a series of studies they undertook where consumers assembled IKEA boxes, folded origami, and built sets of Legos, and then assessed their value once complete.

What the studies showed is something they called the “IKEA effect” – the increase in valuation of self-made products. Participants saw their amateurish creations as similar in value to the creations of experts, and expected others to share their opinions.

Isn’t that fascinating? When people create something themselves, how they felt about the outcome fundamentally changes. How they see it. How much they value it. How much they feel ownership for it.

Now, the research was looking at consumer behaviour around building a product, but there is a key learning for anyone working in the field of behaviour change. If you let the people you are supporting to change build the approach then it completely changes their degree of ownership, desire to make it a success and how they feel about it.

What we to often do is draft a Change Strategy, or a Communications Approach or a Stakeholder Management Plan and then go and present it to our stakeholders, or, if we are able too, the people impacted by the change. It actually matters little how good the approach is, they were not involved in building it. That little fact changes everything.

It’s like building an Ikea dresser yourself. You invested the effort. You worked out the instructions. You created it. And then showing someone else and expecting them to be as excited as you are, as proud as you are and as impressed in the final product. All they see is an Ikea dresser, the same as the hundreds of thousands of other Ikea dressers in the world.

I was doing Jason Little’s Lean Change Agent Workshop a couple of years ago and heard a fantastic saying from one of the other participants (apologies but I can’t remember who), who said; “Those the write the plan, don’t fight the plan“. That, for me, is the Ikea Effect in action.

When you engage those impacted by change to build the strategy, or the plan, or the interventions you are going to roll out, then their ownership increases, the value they put on those increases and why would they resist something that they helped create?



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