In the DevOps world, there are many optimizations which can be done but probably the best way to develop a highly efficient DevOps team is to really understand the DevOps mindset.

A while back, we wrote a blog about the bus factor, heads-up, here comes the informal description: The bus factor – variously known as the truck factor or the lorry factor – is a scenario or set of circumstances that are best avoided if you’re part of a team. The idea is closely linked to redundancy, but in this case, the desired redundancy is people and not machines.

Today we will discuss the IKEA effect and how DevOps protect teams with it.

The “IKEA effect” is a cognitive bias that occurs when people place a disproportionately high value on objects they partially created. This bias is named after the Swedish furniture company IKEA, which is known for selling furniture that is easy to assemble. People tend to value objects more if they have put more effort into creating them.

This cognitive bias can have a negative impact on productivity and can affect entrepreneurs as well as developers. For example, if you are working on a project and become overly attached to it, you may be less likely to make changes or compromises that are necessary for the project to succeed. This can lead to wasted time and effort.

At first this definition sounds appropriate for DevOps and agile thinking – people make their own software and feel proud of it and, as a result, do the best they can to improve it and help it reach success.

Unfortunately, it’s not really that simple.

We will try to give you a few factors to look out when considering the Ikea effect.

Let’s start with the negative side of the IKEA effect

It is important to be aware of the “IKEA effect” and its potential negative effects on productivity. When you are working on a project, be sure to keep your goals in mind and be willing to make changes if necessary.

The Ikea effect isn’t dangerous – in fact, it can be helpful, the emotional attachment encouraging pride and investment in a product.

It gets “dangerous” when people combine it with other fallacies and effects, it can enhance natural human tendencies, compounds the effect, and makes undesirable behaviors even harder to correct.

FACT

The IKEA effect only occurs if the object is assembled successfully. If people fail to build a product using the instructions provided, the value they attribute to it does not increase.

Other researchers focus on feelings of competence, claiming that when people successfully master a challenge and can see the results with their own eyes, they perceive more value in the finished product. Still others say that the effect can be explained by the influence that the creation process has on an individual’s self-concept.

Here are a few different ways that the IKEA effect can sneak into your world:

Not invented here (NIH) syndrome. The tendency to avoid using off-the-shelf technology and instead of building it yourself. Google is the biggest offender of not invented here. They reinvent everything: a build system, deployment system, version control, and even communication protocols like protocol buffers. The extreme version of this is rejecting good ideas that were developed somewhere else while promoting internal and possibly inferior ideas.

Open source. When we can contribute to open-source projects, we value them higher. Community is the current buzzword for startups, but what if it was just about making something your own?

Interactive onboarding. The more we feel like we’ve created something, the more likely we are to stick with it. Templates, demos, and customization in the onboarding flow can drive activation. If you look at the onboarding flow in applications like Notion and Airtable, they have specific steps that make you feel like you “made it by yourself”

DevOps and the IKEA Effect

Leading a project or team along DevOps lines should put everyone in a great position to avoid such cognitive biases – open, communicative, and collaborative teams should have short feedback loops and great discussions, which would hopefully allow team members enough headspace to see and highlight such distorted thinking from afar.

But let’s face it, there is no team can boast of 100% DevOps perfection. Having said that there will always be a sliver of room for cognitive bias to slip in.

Good or bad, stay aware to recognize the Ikea effect and build strong, communicative, and collaborative teams and give people the space and clarity to see distorted thinking from afar.

If you want to learn more about different techniques to improve your team efficiency check our blog for Chaos Engineering.