The Ikea Effect in Negotiations

A few days ago I painted my hallway.  It took me about 5 hours. No, my hallway is not as big as one of the houses in MTV Cribs.  I am just a bad painter.  How good was my paint job? I had some people coming home to remove some junk from the garden, so I asked them.  The answer “you can recover the situation. But you will definitely need at least another layer”. In other words, it sucks but if you start again, maybe it will be ok.  But in my eyes… the hallway walls are the most beautiful of the whole house.  This is the Ikea effect.  A cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created according to Wikipedia.

This applies to virtually anything you do yourself.  A home-baked cake tastes the amazing.  You love your four-legged Ikea table you built regardless of how wobbly it is.  Experiments by Norton and his colleagues demonstrated that participants viewed their amateurish creations as similar in value to experts’ creations, and expected others to share their opinions.  Let’s unpack this. In my painting example, it would be the equivalent of saying that I could charge as much as a professional painter for my weekend job.  This is where I see the opportunity in negotiations.  How can you use that cognitive bias to your advantage? Even better how can you create that cognitive bias in people’s mind?

  1. Use the Ikea effect.  If you know that someone coming up with their own idea, are more likely to buy into that idea, why not figure out what that idea is, and then sell them on a version of that.
  2. Create the Ikea effect.  This is a subtle and delicate tactic. The opposite of throwing the hammer down.  You need to gently steer people in the direction you want.  Make them see the different parts of the flat packed table to build, and then let them build it themselves.  They will be delighted to build it.  You may need to help them a bit more in some case, that’s ok, the most important is that they feel like they complete the task and feel like they own the results.

This is not a tactic you can use every day because it takes time. But this is a good one to add to your negotiation arsenal.  The bigger your negotiation toolkit, the better negotiator you become.  I am convinced that you do not judge a negotiator based on 1 single negotiation, but rather on how well that person does over a long series of negotiations in different setups.

Photo by Norbert Levajsics on Unsplash