The IKEA Effect: Why Doing Something Yourself Makes It More Meaningful

The experience of creating something adds value.

“The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

You value your creations more than others.

This phenomenon is known as the IKEA effect, named after the Swedish furniture company whose products require self-assembly. There is a cognitive bias toward your own creations, even when poorly constructed.

You value experiences over things.

Effort applied in creating something forges a relationship rooted in experience. Your creation is not merely an object or an achievement. It is swaddled in experience and memory, thereby imbuing the creation with more value.

Build-a-Bear charges a premium for constructing a teddy bear. Parents happily pay the price, because a bear you build with your own hands has more value than one you buy off the shelf. Placing a little heart inside the bear seals the deal!

The IKEA effect has broader applications than things you build. It applies equally well to improvements you make in yourself. Losing 10 pounds through the hard work of diet and exercise is much more satisfying than liposuction.

The IKEA effect has both positive and negative outcomes. The positive lies in the reward of doing something yourself. The negative lies in overvaluing the fruits of your labor, especially those of questionable quality. Awareness of these outcomes helps navigate away from sharp rocks.

The love you have for your own creations dissipates quickly if you fail to complete them. The same is true for creations you are forced to destroy or dismantle. Every exciting new project left uncompleted illustrates this effect.

What are the key takeaways of the IKEA effect?

  • Doing something yourself adds value.

  • Value is rooted in experience and memory.

🤔 Food for Thought:

What is the last thing you created by yourself?

Can you compare it to something similar you didn’t create?

Which one do you value most?

⚙️ One Small Step:

I remember my first heat fired clay creation as a child in elementary school. It is pinch pot in the form of a squat little figure wearing a sombrero. The craftsmanship is poor, but I treasure it to this day. Can you name something like this in your own life?