So what do Ikea, Build a Bear and Mediation have to do with one another.  The answer is that everything worth doing is worth building.  Well that is at least what pyschological research shows.  Researchers at Harvard were able to prove a theory that people who build something are more likely to value that same item than people who don’t build the item.

The researchers asked people to build Ikea furniture and then value the furniture at the end and offer a price to buy the furniture.  Other people were simply asked to state a price for the built furniture.  Invariably, the people that built the furniture valued the furniture that was built higher than the ones who hadn’t built the furniture.  This was named the Ikea effect.  In other words, people gained more satisfaction out of something that they contributed to than something that they had no involvement in building.

Across the board, people who were involved in the building valued the same product at 2 to 5 times higher than the control group.  However, if the building project was unsuccessful, then the effect did not exist.

The same principle occurs in any item that is built such as the build a bear concept which allows you to make the bear of your choice based upon customizing parts and items.

So how does this effect mediation?  Simple, a successful mediation result is one that is also built from the ground up.  The participants, lawyers, and clients have to build trust, progress, and finally a deal.  The more that they have to put work and labor into getting to the deal, the more satisfied they will be with the deal.  That is one of the reasons why it is hardly ever the case where a party comes to mediation and 15 minutes later they finish.  There has not been enough investment of labor.

This concept also builds upon the concept called the commitment principle.   Studies have found that once people make small commitments, they are likely to make larger commitments.  Valuing the Ikea furniture at a higher price is simply a greater commitment to the value of the product.

In my experience, parties that get involved in strategizing about the deal and working to a final resolution have a greater satisfaction than ones that are marginally committed.  So what can we do to help this process:

  • Allow the parties to participate in the decision making regarding the offers.
  • Don’t rush the deal
  • Allow the other side to have input into the final solution
  • Create alternatives that can be discussed and considered.
  • Allow the parties to make small commitments such as the commitment to work in good faith to settle the case; the commitment to act in good faith; the commitment to consider the other side’s position.
  • Have the parties involved throughout the day and not just at the end when the deal is finalized.

By doing as much, you have an increased chance that your Ikea table can be viewed as a Mahogany antique piece of furniture.

Source: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/11-091.pdf

Steve Mehta is a professional full-time mediator who specializes in mediating complex and emotional cases. A leading Los Angeles mediator, Mr. Mehta has been repeatedly selected as a Super Lawyer in mediation and is highly regarded by both sides to mediation. To schedule mediations, please visit SteveMehta.com