How many times did you have problem choosing some ideas over others, to go forward in the design process? How many times could you not understand why clients or your colleagues were in love with an idea? I guess most of UX and UI designers answer these questions with “often” or at least “sometimes”.

Obviously, selecting and evaluating ideas is really important, because if you choose wrong ideas you lose your chance to use better ones (ideas), and it is actually hard and expensive to change or improve them later. Additionally, most of the time clients and managers just make the case worse with their passion or reluctance for some ideas. It is so common in our iterative meetings of the design process to feel that ideas from others are not good enough or to have others just ignore your nice ideas. By the way, when I am saying your ideas I am not talking about individuals only; sometimes a group of people just fall in love with one or more ideas and others just don’t get them at all.

Why are my ideas better than yours?

First bare in your mind that ideas and our design results are products of our labor, When in the Design process we generate some ideas and start to work on them iteratively, to make them better and better. It means we are working on our very basic products (ideas) to make a final product and we spend time and put effort on them in this process but as creator we can fall in love with our idea and evaluate it more valuable than the other one’s’ idea.

This problem is coming from Human beings cognitive limitations which can cause unintentional misjudgment and bad decisions. The “IKEA effect” is one of these cognitive biases. It is one of the patterns of deviation and misjudgment or irrational behavior can be a result. The “IKEA effect” was proposed for the first time with a group of behavioral economists from Harvard Business School, Yale and Duke University. The experiments of the group demonstrate that when people make a product with their own labor, their effort can increase their valuation of that product. The level of these positive feelings about that special product depends on the time and effort people put into the tasks and completion of the products they are working on (for more information about “IKEA effect” read this or watch this). As I have already mentioned, This is exactly what happen in Design process on our ideas.

The other factor that can cause over-valuation and emotional attachments is ownership of something. It is even stronger than the first factor and we can attach emotionally to some ideas and in our head, “My ideas” are better than “Yours” or “Our ideas” are better than “Theirs”.  In simple words, the “IKEA effect” and ownership can cause feelings and emotions that attach you to your idea or its result. This level and type of attachments gets higher and higher by spending more time and effort. In the case of people who are not used to generating ideas (managers and clients) or it is hard for them to contribute in an ideation session, they need to put more effort internally to have an idea, and then the case will get even worse for them because they tried more for their ideas and they stuck to them more than the others. finally, as a result, we cannot judge our ideas correctly.

Top 5 best solutions for avoiding the “IKEA effect” and ownership to improve our idea evaluation

1- Be aware

The first and most important matter is being aware of these problems (IKEA effect and ownership). Inform the group of people who are part of the evaluation before evaluation or even the ideation session, but don’t forget to start from yourself and don’t push the others to take care of these problems.

2- Test ideas very early and very simply

If you see some emotional attachment to an idea, test it very early in the Design process. There are lots of ways to do this, from narrative methods like thinking aloud or users walking through to different kinds of prototyping.

3- Ask others or users

Ask other people who are not participating in the ideation group to evaluate the ideas and compare evaluations of the ideation team or your evaluation if the idea is yours. By the way, the best group of people to ask if there is time and budget is the target users group. Explain to them the concepts and present your ideas, then ask them to rate them for you based on the different categories, like functionality and visual values.

4- Imagine users and their expectations

One of the best and fastest techniques in evaluating your ideas is asking two questions of yourself. First, what do users want to do and how? Keep in mind that you can easily role-play as a user; then you can see clearly which ideas make more sense and have a better chance to stay in the final Design.

5- Move on!

We should learn to move on (this one even works pretty well in your personal life, based on my experience) from an idea. It is a bad idea to spend a lot of time and effort to improve an idea. Designers should move on and encourage the whole ideation group to move on because always moving on from some ideas leads you to better ones and it saves you time by keeping your mind ready for new ideas.

At the end I would like to remind you that It’s easy to fall into the “IKEA effect” and ownership trap. Be vigilant and aware that cognitive limitations are a global problem and not easily solved. But with the right effort it can be overcome.