Could Spreadsheet Developers Use the IKEA Effect?


I have been watching “Universal Principles of Design” on, an absolutely fascinating series on design with rather un-intuitive — and powerful — lessons for us spreadsheeters.

I have frequently taught that your most important job as an analyst is to make your boss’s life easier — namely, by providing, timely, accurate, insightful data preparation and analysis. 

If you can’t do the messy work with data, why have you around?

But maybe a limited element of DIY is useful. 

Enter the IKEA effect. From Wikipedia:

The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created.[1] The name derives from the Swedish manufacturer and furniture retailer IKEA, which sells many furniture products that require assembly.

This makes sense. I believe that humans are fundamentally creative and crave interactivity. Deep down, everyone loves a good old arts & crafts session. Knowingly or not, IKEA tapped into this need. This seems to contradict our demand for convenience and service. But IKEA balances convenience and interaction just right with nearly foolproof directions. 

So what does this mean for your next spreadsheet? 

Add an IKEA effect. 

Understood, many managers are terrified of using or distributing interactive spreadsheets, for fear of “breaking something.” So make it simple. Balance convenience and interaction, just like IKEA.

Consider using form controls, for example. Jordan Goldmeier covers those beautifully in Excel.TV’s Dashboard Pro course. 

Not as involved as VBA, simpler. Who doesn’t love clicking a button?

Interactivity gets people personally invested in your work. Cells become Lego blocks.

Further Reading:

NPR, “Why You Love That Ikea Table, Even If It’s Crooked”



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