Graeme Newell

The IKEA Effect

“What are the things we love most? The things we spend the most time working on. Brain scientist call this the “IKEA effect.”

There’s a neuroscience motivation behind the big-box retailer making us slog that heavy box to our car. There’s a brain-science strategy behind the 10,000 pieces they force us to meticulously assemble. Once we’ve toiled that hard on that bookcase, it isn’t just a piece of furniture anymore. It’s forever an icon of our own capabilities and genius.

We don’t work on things because we love them. We love things because we work on them. It’s a big reason we are so smitten with our hobbies, hometown teams, families, homes, and cars.

A few years back, I decided that I wanted to seriously up my fitness level. So I designed a behavioral change strategy that utilized the IKEA effect.

I spent weeks researching workout routines, reward systems, gear, and schedules. I created A/B tests, tried out high-tech gadgets, and thoroughly immersed myself in the fitness world. I made researching the project fun by going to lunch with friends and interviewing them on how they stayed fit.

The result was that before I even began my workout routine, I had put so much time and energy into it, I was crazy excited to start.

If you want to fall in love with something, put the IKEA effect into action:

– Extensively plan what you’ll do.
– Make the investigation a fun process.
– Give yourself many rewards for small milestones, not just big ones.
– Tell everyone what you’re doing. Share your process, successes and failures.
– Recruit others to join you.