The Ikea Effect

By Anthony Gold

The bookcase in my office is terrific. It matches the surroundings quite well, displays my most frequently referenced books, and even has a little light on top that shines down on the book spines.

But everyone who visits my office thinks the bookcase looks awful. They say it doesn’t match the surroundings quite well, sags a bit in the middle, and frankly, they say, looks unprofessional.

How could I be so blind?

The answer is something known as the Ikea Effect, which essentially states that we disproportionally value things we create with our own labor.  And sure enough, I did buy that bookcase from Ikea. Obviously it wasn’t a bookcase when I bought it – it was simply a box with lots of flat pieces of wood and a bunch of screws and dowels.

It took me about one hour to “build” the bookcase. Most people probably could have done it in 20 minutes, but by the time I was about 75% complete I realized I had done something wrong and had to start back over from the beginning.

Nonetheless, once it was finished, standing erect, and holding my books – I loved that bookcase!

But here’s the thing with the Ikea Effect: not only do we highly value the fruits of our own labor, we are deluded into believing other people should see the same value. And when they don’t, we scratch our head incredulously wondering why.

Many researchers believe this same misguided mental trap of overvaluing the fruits of our own labor explains why many business and technology folks disregard good ideas developed by other people in favor of their own, likely inferior, ideas. It’s classically known as the “not invented here” syndrome.

Of course, the ego thought system is the epitome of the Ikea Effect. The amount of effort and energy we spend trying to make our lives just so leads us to give it enormous value and impact. We treasure the world – immensely – not only because we made it, but also because we want it.

You made the world you see. There is no world apart from what you wish. (T-21.II.11; W-pI.132.4)

Perception selects, and makes the world you see. And you will think the world you made directs your destiny. (T-21.V.1;2)

Thus we all believe the events of the world and our daily lives direct or reveal our destiny. But it isn’t true – our experiences to the contrary.

Once we realize the source of our attachment to the world, we can then begin to question the basis of such mistaken thinking – thereby creating an entree into the real world.

The real world, in its loveliness, you learn to reach. Fantasies are all undone, and no one and nothing remain still bound by them. (T-17.II.3)

The Idea Effect shows us how we disproportionally value what we made, and how misled we are. By looking honestly at our own “creations” (be they physical bookcases or the metaphorical ones that hold all the stories of our lives), we open ourselves to another way of seeing.

Join us in Monday’s class where we will discuss this crazy effect and how we can undo the distorted picture that results. I look forward to seeing you then.

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