Dan Ariely is a professor in behavioural economics at MIT. His most recent book, The Upside of Irrationality, includes a fascinating chapter on how people relate to their own and others’ ideas. The question he asks is, how important is it for us to come up with an idea, or at least to feel that it is ours, in order to value it?
What he is focusing on is the Not-Invented-Here (NIH) bias, or as Ariely puts it If I (or we) didn’t invent it, then it’s not worth much.
In a previous chapter Ariely explores how he tested the IKEA effect – showing that when we make things ourselves, we value them more. Does this effect also apply to ideas. In other words, as long as we create it, we tend to feel rather certain that it’s more useful and important than similar ideas that other people come up with.
Ariely describes his experiments to test the IKEA effect with ideas. He found that in all cases, participants rated their own solution as much more practical, as having a greater potential for success, and so on. They also said they would invest more of their time and money into promoting their own ideas rather than any of the ones he came up with.
The positive side of understanding the sense of ownership and pride that stems from investing time and energy in projects and ideas, is that you can inspire yourself and others to be more committed to and interested in the task at hand. It doesn’t take much to increase a sense of ownership. The down side is that the value of others’ ideas is overlooked or ignored.
If you want to make something happen, rather than trying to convince people of how great your idea is, persuade key players to come up with the idea themselves and then support them in implementing it. Yes you don’t get the credit for being brilliant, but you will see your idea come to fruition.