Unlocking the secrets of happiness at work

Photo credit Duong Tran Quoc via unsplash.com

Photo credit Duong Tran Quoc via unsplash.com

Did you know that IKEA could help you understand happiness? Well metaphorically, any way. A story told by Dan Ariely illustrates a point that I am sure many of you will identify with.

Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He is one of the speakers at TED (Technology Events Design). In his exploration of what makes us feel good about work, Dan explores factors that influence our motivation (to work).

Seeing as we all spend a lot of time at work, understanding the things that underpin motivation could be important to us individually as well as if we are team leaders or managers. One of the lead-in concepts Dan refers to is the IKEA effect.

The IKEA effect
Ariely describes IKEA furniture as being okay, but requiring a long time to assemble. He relates to the frustration of assembling IKEA pieves as requiring a lot of effort and involving a lot of confusion. Despite not enjoying the furniture or the assembly process, once completed it has far greater appeal to him than other furniture.


Because you actually put in the effort to make it yourself. He called it the IKEA effect. It can be applied to many different situations. When you put in more effort to do something, you appreciate it more, value it more and think others should value it more too.

Ariely concluded that by getting people to work harder at something, they actually got to love what they were doing to a greater degree. It was about understanding the importance of meaning. It is important to get people to spend time, energy and effort to care more about what they’re doing. Something we create – has greater value for us.

What is more important – efficiency or meaning?
In times of economic rationalism, is there really a question to be asked about the importance of efficiency over meaning? Well yes there is. Perhaps in producing widgets, it does not apply. But in today’s knowledge economy, there is a lot to be said for the meaning attributed to work more so than the efficiency with which it is produced.

It is the meaning that goes into the production of an idea, a solution or a product that binds the innovators together. The product has far more importance to them than its mere product value. The importance is inherent in the creative process, the challenge, ownership, identity and pride as well as reward and the overall meaning of the process.

Motivating factors
The factors that motivate a person to work are the same things that make us happy. They are not just monetary rewards. They are the intrinsic qualities associated with creating something that means something to us or that has a purpose that we believe in. Those factors are: 

  • meaning
  • creation
  • challenge
  • ownership
  • identity
  • pride

Workplace challenge
The challenge is to create our own meaning, pride and motivation in our workplace and for our employees/team members.  If we can succeed at this we could get people to be more productive and happier.

What do you think?

Source: Dan Ariely’s TED talk: What makes us feel good about our work?


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