Bennett: The IKEA Effect: How it Can Steer Your Shop Towards Greater Teamwork, Engagement and Collaboration

Sept. 11, 2023
By actively involving employees in decision-making, ideation and problem-solving, you're not just seeking solutions but embedding a sense of ownership and pride in the team.

Ever wrestled with assembling a piece of IKEA furniture? There's that distinct feeling of triumph when you've finished, even if it's just a modest bookshelf. This isn't merely a random burst of pride; it's grounded in cognitive psychology. Think back to any DIY project you've tackled. Once the initial hurdles were overcome, there was a wave of satisfaction, right?

What is the IKEA Effect?

The heightened appreciation for something we’ve had a hand in creating, instead of merely buying it ready-made, is known as the "IKEA effect." A study from the Harvard Business Review suggests that the effort we pour into a task increases its perceived value and fills us with a unique sense of pride in what we've accomplished. Now, imagine translating this effect to the workplace. Suppose people feel a deep sense of pride and attachment to projects they've had a direct hand in. Employees would similarly value, have more pride, and be more committed to tasks or problem-solving projects they've actively contributed to. This is not just about manual labor, it's about participating, contributing, and feeling ownership.

For shop owners and leaders, the potential is profound. By actively involving employees in decision-making, ideation and problem-solving, you're not just seeking solutions but embedding a sense of ownership and pride in the team. The IKEA effect can be the key that unlocks untapped passion, creativity and commitment in employees. Harnessing this can transform an everyday workplace into a hotbed of innovation and a collaborative spirit. This article aims to guide you to leverage this powerful tool to drive engagement and innovation in your business.

How to Tap into Employees' Insights

  • Everyday Brilliance. Every team member, from the seasoned technician to the newbie receptionist, has a unique perspective born from daily interactions and tasks. They've faced challenges head-on, often devising workarounds. Imagine harnessing these insights for broader solutions. Instead of top-down directives, imagine solutions built from ground-up experiences.

  • Fresh Solutions. Those directly involved in problems sometimes need help recognizing obvious solutions. A technician might have a new approach to customer relations, just as a service advisor, porter or CSR might spot a workflow bottleneck. Encourage cross-role communication to inspire creativity.

  • Diversity. An array of backgrounds, experiences and roles can create a well-rounded strategy. Leaders should consider input from all levels, ensuring every innovative solution is recognized.

Collaboration Drives Engagement and Teamwork

When a team comes together to solve a problem, they're not just addressing an issue; they're building a shared narrative, a collective memory of overcoming challenges together.

  • Recognition and Morale. Asking for opinions isn't a sign of weakness in leadership and management. When employees feel heard and valued, their commitment to the organization and its success skyrockets. They're more invested in its success when they've played a role in a plan or strategy.

  • Trust through teamwork. Collaboration isn't just about solving today's problems. It's about building trust and understanding among team members, ensuring that when future challenges arise, the team approaches them united. A team with a say in the plan doesn't just execute tasks; they champion them.

Developing Skills and Knowledge for Professional Growth

A technician's primary focus is fixing cars, just as a service advisor focuses on building relationships and selling services. Yet, involving them in key discussions and decision-making can elevate their strategic insight and deepen their operational understanding. Such investment and involvement with the team will broaden perspectives and cultivate crucial skills like situational analysis, planning and creative problem-solving while enhancing overall buy-in and engagement.

Understanding the "why" behind tasks can be powerful. By involving employees in operational and organizational decisions, they gain a holistic view of the business. This knowledge often leads to a more proactive approach to their primary roles and a greater appreciation of the functions around them.

When a team faces and overcomes challenges together, they're not just solving a problem but expanding their joint skillset. Employees are more likely to stay with an organization that invests in their development. You're building their skills and ensuring loyalty by offering them opportunities to learn and grow.

Sparking Innovation and Creativity

Invite voices from all backgrounds and roles. The technician, bookkeeper, service advisor and receptionist can all bring a unique perspective that will lead to more impactful decisions and solutions. Team members, not bound by managerial bias, often develop the most innovative ideas. They're in the trenches, observing and interacting in ways managers might not. Embrace perspective from up and down the org chart.

How to Get Started

  • Baby Steps. Start with a pilot project before diving into large initiatives. This approach serves a dual purpose. First, it's more manageable for teams unfamiliar with a collaborative approach. Second, it provides a controlled environment to gauge the effectiveness and refine the process. Think of this as a test drive—a chance to experience the potential of a more inclusive decision-making process without committing to a total overhaul.

  • Context is Key. Ensure employees understand the broader picture before seeking input. Provide a comprehensive overview of the problem, the factors that have led to it and why their input is valuable. It's vital to identify and agree on the "ideal outcome." As owner or leader, you must “paint the picture” and challenge the team to imagine creative solutions. Having a clear, shared vision of success ensures everyone understands the objective and measurable goals to strive for.

  • Create Idea Generation Initiatives. Organize brainstorming sessions or consider tools and workshops in design thinking, where the primary goal is to generate as many ideas as possible.

  • Celebrate Every Voice. It's about gathering feedback and valuing it. Create an environment where employees feel their opinions are heard and matter. Recognize and appreciate innovative solutions in team meetings and always celebrate successes that arise from employee suggestions. The message is clear: every opinion contributes to the team's greater success, no matter how big or small.

  • Embrace Evolution, Not Revolution. Collaboration is a journey, not a destination. After each collaborative endeavor, take the time to assess the outcomes. What went well? What challenges arose? And most importantly, what can be improved for next time? Encouraging feedback about the collaborative process itself can be invaluable in refining and optimizing the approach. Remember, it's about building a culture of continuous improvement.

So, in an age where agility, innovation, and resilience are essential, it's worth challenging the traditional top-down hierarchical approach. By implementing collaborative and inclusive processes, leaders can tap into a wealth of untapped potential within their teams. Every individual's wisdom, creativity and passion are potent assets that could be better utilized. It's not just about reimagining leadership; it's about unlocking the collective genius and passions of the entire team.

As leaders, we have a choice: Do we remain chained in the paradigm of having to solve every problem and generate every new idea, or do we dare to embrace a new, more dynamic philosophy that harnesses the passions and energies of our team? The most successful and future-ready organizations will be those that choose the latter, blending the strengths of leadership with the insights and dedication of every team member.

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett has more than three decades in the Independent Auto Repair industry. Mike has been an ASE Master Technician and is the owner of Mike’s KARS Inc. in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Fully immersed in the industry for his entire professional career as a master technician, shop foreman, general manager, and automotive shop owner, Mike has a unique and broad perspective on the shop owner experience. Mike is able to communicate with real-world experience and a “been there and done that” perspective. As an Alumni shop owner with the Automotive Training Institute, he continues to operate his shop with his wife Shelle. Mike is now a nationally certified executive trainer and he has spent the last 11 years as a full-time business coach with ATI as well as leading two of ATI’s premier shop owner 20 groups as well as the first-in-industry CEO/COO development program.

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