5 Simple Take Away from Dan Ariely

About Dan Ariely:

Dan Ariely,  an American professor of psychology and behavioral economics, teaches at Duke University. His books have been listed in the New York Times best sellers and his talks on TED have been watched over 4.8 million times. 

5 Simple Take Away from Dan Ariely 


When you look carefully at the way people work, he says, you find out there’s a lot more at play—and a lot more at stake—than money. Dan Ariely believes that we are also driven by meaningful work, by others’ acknowledgement and by the amount of effort we’ve put in: the harder the task is, the prouder we are.

Dan’s views on what makes us feel good about our work is summarized in the below 5 points:

1. Seeing the fruits of our labor may make us more productive

Experiment: In a study conducted at Harvard University, Ariely asked participants to build characters from Lego’s Bionicles series. In both conditions, participants were paid decreasing amounts for each subsequent Bionicle: $3 for the first one, $2.70 for the next one, and so on. Here, one group’s creations were stored under the table, and the other group’s Bionicles were disassembled in front of their eyes. 

ResultsThe first group made 11 Bionicles, on average, while the second group made only seven before they quit.

LearningEven though there wasn’t huge meaning at stake, and even though the first group knew their work would be destroyed at the end of the experiment, seeing the results of their labor for even a short time was enough to dramatically improve performance.


2. Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes

 Experiment: Participants were asked to identify and highlight pairs of letters on a printed sheet of paper. When handing in the work, the participants experienced three different types of reactions: acknowledgement, ignorance, and the total destroying of their work in front of their eyes.

Result and Learning: Acknowledgement is the strongest motivator. Interestingly, plain ignorance has a similar effect than brutal destroying of one’s work. 


3. Motivation doesn’t seem to be so difficult

Dan Ariely in the above experiment also found out that it is fairly simple to acknowledge: simply showing interest is often enough. A simple “hmm” at the participant’s work was enough to motivate them. 


4. The IKEA effect

The IKEA experiment suggests that when people use their own effort to construct a particular product, they value it more than if they didn’t put any effort into its creation, even if it is done poorly.

 Most furniture you can buy at Ikea you have to assemble yourself. Because of that you feel stronger connected to the furniture eventually.

Experiment: Involved two sets of subjects. The first set were told to completely assemble a piece of IKEA furniture. The second set were also instructed to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture, but only partially.

Results: Individuals who had built the box completely were willing to pay more than the individuals who only partially built the box.


5. Karl Mark’s Meaning is more important in today’s Knowledge economy than Adam Smith’s Efficiency



We care much more about a product if we’ve participated from start to finish rather than producing a single part over and over.


During the Industrial Revolution, Ariely points out, Adam Smith’s efficiency-oriented, assembly-line approach made sense. But it doesn’t work as well in today’s knowledge economy. Instead, Ariely upholds Karl Marx’s concept that we care much more about a product if we’ve participated from start to finish rather than producing a single part over and over. In other words, in the knowledge economy, efficiency is no longer more important than meaning.

You can watch Dan Ariely’s TedX here :


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