The Ikea Effect, Pinterest and Competency

As I normally do, I wake up to NPR in the mornings, listening in up until my morning run and then again as I get ready for the day. Today, in the wee hours of the morning, I tuned in to a story on the Ikea effect. Since I adore Ikea like I do office supply stores, I tried to focus more than usual. I caught the highlights (all my early morning brain could muster):

Most of us intuitively believe that the things we labor at are the things we love. Mochon and his colleagues, Michael Norton at the Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely at Duke University, have turned that concept on its head. What if, they asked, it isn’t love that leads to labor, but labor that leads to love?

Labor of Love? Or a Love of Competency?

I get that. That which I labor over most, investing my time and energy into, gives me the most satisfaction.It also has the power to make me feel very accomplished, most of the time. With work, my labors of love are my client accounts. The more creative the campaign with the most tangible, measurable outcomes are my proudest moments. I get extreme satisfaction from that. There’s a desire to feel competent, usually a high level of competency, in fact. It goes beyond the actual outcome to the feeling we get from doing it and the motivation inherent in that process.

Where we run into issues as service providers is when we get too tied into the labor and become unaware of the outcome or the potential lack of said outcomes. We operate in a vacuum, convinced we are correct and that the approach will succeed, when in reality, we may need to abandon ship or try a new approach. We have essentially generated our own happy place, succumbing to our love of competency and the feeling we have from simply creating.  We lose objectivity.

Pin me, baby.

I consider myself a DIY kind of gal, but I still can’t sew or lay tile. I am a crazed fabric swatch and tile sample hoarder, always with a new design in mind. It’s the process of creating that feeds me and as a result, I feel competent in my designs, but thankfully, I know enough to hire out the actual upholstering or tiling.

Pinterest seems to feed that feeling, don’t you think? It feeds the creative outlet. We’re creating boards for goodness sake around our idea of what works for home decor, beauty, DIY and countless other items. We find like minded souls there. Some of the top topics for Pinterest boards confirms that: Home Decor, Beauty, and DIY.






One of our top sources for all of those pins? Etsy. The epitome of DIY and accomplishment.

Finding your way out of Ikea

Have you ever actually visited an Ikea? It’s truly awesome. It’s ginormous and full of DIY stuff that gets me all excited. Ever visited with two kids age 3 and 8, after a full day at an indoor water park? No? Really?

Well, I have. And you know what I found? There’s no way out. There’s no escape hatch or emergency opt-out when the wheels come off the proverbial wagon. Let me explain.

You’re pretty much funneled in, by design, a path that you can not veer from. It’s an internal Ikea effect really. You’re in their zone and there is no outside interference. You’re quite happy there and have all the comforts you need (food, childcare if they’re potty trained – not quite there at that visit), and silently become one of the lambs being led to slaughter, I mean, check out. You go from floor to floor, along with everyone else, until you reach the end of the line. Well done, Ikea!

As is typical with me in big environs like that, with lots of pretty things, I start grabbing stuff and shoving it into my cart, measurements be damned. The experience becomes my little labor of love…seeking euphoria via home design and DIY.

That particular visit, with one child melting down in the cutest little kitchen vignette you’ve ever seen and another doing wheelies with the cart, I was made painfully aware that my project was a failure. My husband and I exchanged looks; I gave him the universal sign for “stop the ride, we’re getting off,” and frantically looked for a way out.

Stops along the way

We all have tendencies from time to time to operate in our own little Ikea, whilst pinning to our favorite DIY board, all in the name of a job well done and instant gratification. What we all need, especially those of us in service to others, is an escape plan…a way out. We need to have an objective view.

Who on your team or in your posse do you count on to help you find your way out? Or better yet, who are you talking to at critical points in the process?

Do you have someone? I do. I have a few people I call on. Sometimes, it’s the client. Yes, I do leave myself open to criticism from the folks who pay me. The outcome is ALWAYS better when I have many eyes on a project than when I keep it to myself and only come up for air at the end. ALWAYS.

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