The worth of your own idea

The worth of your own idea

“If I (or we) didn’t invent it, then it’s not worth much.”
–Dan Ariely

I am currently reading this very interesting book called the upside of irrationality by Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University. His previous book, Predictably Irrational, one of my favorite books, gives many stories about how people act irrationally in certain situations and how smart corporations or individuals take advantage and makes money off of these irrational behaviors.
Some of the stories in this book really amazed me and I even made a couple of teaching materials out of them. The previous book focused on the more negative side of irrationality but this new book focuses on the positive side: knowing that we do react irrationally to certain situations, the way to use these positively.

I found the quote above particularly interesting since I have long wondered whether we can measure, in quantitative terms, how much people are willing to invest time and energy when they are acting on their ideas rather than being ordered to do things. This book gives a clue to this question.
Ariely starts this story by buying a furniture in IKEA. After struggling for hours and finish assembling it, he realized that he felt more attached to it than any other pice of furniture in his house. He (and his collegueas) named this “The IKEA Effect” in which we overvalue what we make. But by how much?
To find out, Ariely and his fellow researchers conducts an experiment using the Japanese art of origami. They set up an origami booth in the student center at Harvard and asked a students who passed by to fold a origami frog or an origami crane. Then they thought how much the origami were worth in monetary terms*. On average, they said the ones that they folded were worth 23 cents.
Now, this is where the experiment gets interesting. The researchers asked a couple of people passing by the booth, showed the orgamis created by students, and asked how much they were willing to pay for them. The average price for the noncreators was 5 cents.
But when the researchers asked another group of noncreators to bid on frogs and crans created by origami experts (as a Japanese, I’ve never heard of origami experts before…”) the average bid shot up to 27 cents, a close price (23 cents) to what the student creaters said it was worth.
Ariely does not conclude this in this book but I think it’s fair to say, based on this experiment, that we value our own ideas 4-5 times more than it actually is.
I think it is also safe to say that if you feel the idea came out from you, you will put 4-5 times more time and effort into making it happen.
Two years ago, I was asked by a company to facilitate a 2 hour workshop (this was done in Japanese), extracting new business ideas from its employees. Reading this book assured me that not only the ideas driven from employees have values itself but it increases the chances of making the ideas to happen by a huge percentage.
We don’t want having outside consultants bossing you around to do this and that. We want to come up with our own solutions, something that comes out of yourself, something innovative that excites you. This is percisely what I felt after feeling the energy level of the particpants after facilitating the workshop.
Over the past year, I’ve been searching for good frameworks/concepts that I can imagine myself facilitating in workshops but nothing inspired me. But finally, I found this truly inspiring book that I feel I can make this happen. I will write in the next blog article about this book. Stay-tuned!

Posted by Masafumi Otsuka

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