HBR, Ikea & Betty Crocker

HBR recently launched its Big Ideas for 2009.

I like lists like this because they’re an interesting survey of what a decision makers (and publishing houses) think will be influential. There’s naturally a little sensationalism, but for the most part it’s informative.

I was struck by the Ikea Effect idea though. The idea is that through flat-pack, self assembled furniture, IKEA has tapped into the same sort of phenomenon that Betty Crocker captured decades ago in its add-an-egg bakers formula. On the surface that sounds plausible, but if you push on the idea a little bit, I think there’s something deeper at work.

Betty Crocker was about creating something, add an egg, mix, and bake…but there’s some magic and some transformation after that. The cake could be a little overdone, a little underdone; there’s a small amount of risk and some magic to the process. IKEA furniture is about assembling. The best you could ever do is to make a piece of furniture exactly like the piece in the store. There’s not even a hint of craftsmanship, it’s about shifting labor and getting cheaper, more accessible furniture.

It’s interesting how when you just analyze something externally, they can seem to fit the same needs. Only when you empathize and role play a little does the problem reveal a whole new layer of richness…

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