The Ikea Effect Applied to Physical Therapy

Perception is an all-too-powerful daily catalyst in our lives. It often operates on a subconscious level facilitating decisions and perspectives that quickly and efficiently leverage levels of happiness and satisfaction. The Ikea Effect describes one of these levers.

So what is The Ikea Effect? Norton, Mochon, and Ariely’s research paper define it as “the increase in valuation of self-made products.” It’s the satisfaction and feeling of acheivement one experiences upon successfully assembling an “assembly-required” Ikea product – chair, table, bed, sofa, etc. Time and effort is invested in hopes of assembling (read “producing”) something of value. According to Norton, et al

labor increases valuation of completed products not just for consumers who profess an interest in “do-it-yourself” projects, but even for those who are relatively uninterested

In terms of Physical Therapy, our “product” is restoration of optimum patient function. The Ikea Effect parlays into physical therapy by highlighting the importance of Active Patient Participation. This concept of Active Patient Participation may be easily lifted from other seemingly unrelated fields. Again, from Norton, et al:

When instant cake mixes were introduced in the 1950’s as part of a broader trend to simplify the life of the American housewife by minimizing manual labor, housewives were initially resistant: The mixes made cooking too easy, making their labor and skill seem undervalued. As a result, manufacturers changed the recipe to require adding an egg; while there are likely several reasons why this change led to greater subsequent adoption, infusing the task with labor appeared to be a crucial ingredient (Shapiro 2004). Similarly, Build-a-Bear offers people the “opportunity” to construct their own teddy bears, charging customers a premium even as they foist assembly costs onto them, while farmers offer “haycations,” in which consumers must harvest the food they eat during their stay on a farm.

Active Patient Participation brews a sense of “ownership” that not only encourages patient responsibility and engagement, but also fosters a sense of empowerment that enhances the value of your service. You are now more than a commodity selling on price, you are a resource based on perceived vested value, via the Ikea Effect.

We value what we build. The link between labor and a sense of well-being and value is both intuitive and abundantly recognized. Move beyond passive “traditional” approaches; merge the Science of Evidence-Based Practice with the Art of Patient Perception. Encourage Active Patient Participation in their rehabilitation (and your practice) to build a sense of ownership through you.

Leverage the Love of Labor to transform and enhance your Labor of Love.

“When you sell on price, you are a commodity. When you sell on value, you are a resource.” – @BobBurg

Sources: The Ikea Effect: When Labor Leads to Love[pdf] by Norton, Mochon, and Ariely.

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