AB Thinks  →  16th January 2023

What flatpack furniture can teach us about change communication

Ever heard of the IKEA effect? It’s a cognitive bias in which we attach more value to something we’ve partially created than something bought off-the-shelf. In the original 2011 study, consumers were willing to pay up to 60% more for a Billy Bookcase they’d built themselves. (That’s a lot for what’s essentially 10 planks of MDF).

It tells us a lot about the value we place in being part of the creation process. But, as Simon Monger, SCMP®, change management consultant and IABC UK & Ireland President for the 2022/23 year, explained in his AB Thinks Live session, the key point is not just that we feel competent as a result, but that self-assembly provides us with the evidence of our competence. And even if it’s a bit wonky in places, we focus on the positive attributes, because we had a hand in making it.

But what has this got to do with change management? At it’s simplest, change management is about trying to get people to think, feel or do something differently. And what stops this from happening? Well, lots of things. A sudden lack of self-determination, uncertainty about the overall direction, surprise announcements, fears around job security, and loss of face (after all, change implies that what went before isn’t good enough). It’s no wonder that McKinsey found 70% of all transformation fails.

But there is a better way. Just like building that Billy Bookcase, “smart change will always involve people in the solution.”

Here are some of Simon’s top tips for how to do that:

  • Outline your vision and explain the big-picture ‘why’. Avoid suggesting that the change is the result of personal failure by any individual or team. (If that is an issue, then performance management should address it!)
  • Give colleagues a say in what change looks like – after all, no one wants change ‘done’ to them.
  • Don’t change everything at once – and reaffirm what will stay the same.
  • Set clear timelines early on, and communicate regularly (even when the update is ‘there is no update’).
  • Train select colleagues in new systems first. They’ll become ambassadors, reassuring other colleagues that a) they’ll get the necessary training, and b) the extra effort will be worth it.
  • Acknowledge that extra effort. After all, change is always more work. There’s no point denying it. A thank you goes a long way.

What this all boils down to? Finding ways to show competence during your transformation. It’ll help everyone to stay focused on the positives – galvanising colleagues around where the business is headed and what the benefits are.

That’s a lot of value from one Billy Bookcase, don’t you think?