How IKEA and Ben Franklin Can Help Agile Coach


Recently I came across one of those things that we „know“ and „are natural“, but still it’s full effectiveness stays hidden for us until we read some systematic explanation about it. This thing that caught my attention is called IKEA effect. In short, it’s about increasing customers belief into value of some product by letting customer to „embed“ a small amount of his own work and skill into it. Usually it’s done by allowing customer to finish the product.

This effect was used by many manufacturers throughout history, but IKEA, a popular Swedish furniture manufacturer „put a golden plate on it“ by asking customers to assemble IKEA furniture at their home. Despite it was used since long time ago, it was untested scientifically until Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, Daniel Mochon of Yale University, and Dan Ariely of Duke University wrote a paper about it in 2011.

Another well known example of IKEA effect is from 1950s. At that time, instant cake producers increased their sales dramatically by changing their mix recipes that was too easy to cook. They decided to require housewives to add an egg during cake preparation and it was a step that made them feel their skills are still necessary and valued.

The fact is: we value more that we build.

Now, lets put IKEA effect aside and take a look at another psychological phenomenon – Ben Franklin effect.
A story says that Benjamin Franklin used to borrow a book from those who behaved closed to him or disliked him. Upon book return, Franklin always tried to strongly emphasize a sense of favor that he received. After that, a book owner usually became more friendly and open.

This tool is useful today as it was in 1730s when Franklin recognized it. It’s because when we do a favor to some person, we tend to like them more as a result.

Having know IKEA effect and Ben Franklin effect, agile coach can make his everyday job a bit easier.

For example, coach could ask development team to mount a kanban board at wall or to speak to managers to enable some process changes. These are not prescribed activities for team members, but can help a lot during agile transition. Team members will probably love and use that kanban board mounted at the wall by their own hands. This is nothing else but IKEA effect. Try to include all people that you coach in a way they produce something. If you expect them to use something, let them create it if it’s possible.

Also, you can employ Ben Franklin effect to work for you, too. If you’re an agile coach, then you experienced agile transition resistance for sure. I’m also sure that you can enumerate people with strong influence to others and with strong resistance to agile changes. If you can make this people to be more open and friendly to you, your chances to success will be much higher. So, ask them to do you a favor. Don’t forget that this favor doesn’t have to be work-related. If you’re out of ideas, you can always ask them to borrow you a book :)

I know that this post feels like a common sense „that we already know“, but I hope that mentioning it here can remind you about existence of something that you already know :)

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