Have you ever wondered why the tomato you grew yourself always tastes a little sweeter than the one you bought at the grocery store? Or maybe why a meal you cooked yourself always seems better than one you ordered at a restaurant?

The answer to these questions could be the fact that you have a green thumb or a preternatural talent in the kitchen, but more than likely it has something to do with a simple phenomenon that had been dubbed the “IKEA Effect”. This idea, which has been researched by professors from Duke, Harvard, and the University of California, basically says that individuals naturally see things they helped create as more valuable or desirable. The "IKEA Effect" explains the increase in valuation we place on products we build ourselves.

Here’s a good example of this phenomenon in action:


When instant cake mixes were introduced in the 1950’s as part of a broader trend to simplify the life of the American housewife by minimizing manual labor, housewives were initially resistant: The mixes made cooking too easy, making their labor and skill seem undervalued. As a result, manufacturers changed the recipe to require adding an egg; while there are likely several reasons why this change led to greater subsequent adoption, infusing the task with labor appeared to be a crucial ingredient (Shapiro 2004; bold emphasis added by Mo Bunnell.)

The issue wasn’t whether or not the cake was tasty. It was whether or not the consumers felt like they were involved in the process, and therefore could take credit for the end result. The science behind this is quite strong and duplicated in many places. This also has broader applicability to many things regarding buy-in.

Coming from a business development viewpoint, your “building” occurs when building how you’ll work together with a client. When your client spends some time building how you'll work with them, they'll typically buy into choosing you over your competitors.  In this context, the competition can range from other firms, to the client doing things in house, or maybe even the client making the decision to do nothing at all.

If you can engage clients by utilizing the GrowBIG® concept of building everything together, you'll have a higher chance of a “Yes!” and will reduce potential gaps in expectations as you do the work. People buy into what they help create.  The key to doing this effectively is to make this very easy for the client. They have to do some work, but it should be relatively simple.  It's like adding the egg to the instant cake mix. It's not too hard, but it does require a small amount of effort. People will value the end plan to a greater degree if they perform some effort to help create the plan. 

If you can identify the various decisions the client needs to make, clearly outline them, give them these options and then provide counsel for what you'd recommend, you're making it easy for them.  Many times, all it takes is a 15-minute phone call.  That simple call can solidify that you're the right choice. 

To get started, here are two simple questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Are you asking your clients to do a little amount of work before getting started? (In other words, are they adding an egg to the mix?)
  2. Do you both have clear expectations in all 4 HBDI® quadrants?
    • Goals (Yellow quadrant)
    • Payment terms/rates (Blue quadrant)
    • Process (Green quadrant)
    • Relationships (Red quadrant)

Clients will value the end result a great deal more if they help build the plan with you right from the start. All they want you to do is provide the mix that sets them up for success. They want to be able to add in that egg and maybe a little milk, and claim a part of the masterpiece that comes out of the oven.

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Want to learn more about the "IKEA effect"? Read the working paper 'The IKEA Effect: When Labor Leads to Love" by Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon and Dan Ariely. The full working paper text can be downloaded from a link at this page.