March 2023 – The IKEA Effect in Business Simulations

Business Simulations as a Teaching Laboratory

“IKEA”​ by Rob Olivera is marked with CC BY 2.0. To view the terms, visit [3]

According to behavioral scientist Troy Campbell [1], higher engagement comes when an activity provides “constrained creativity”[2]. That is, “First, the activity has enough freedom for consumers to be creative. Second, and importantly, the activity has enough structure to guide consumers and measure their success, such as through norms or goals.”

A business simulation provides a structured game and also the freedom to explore different strategies and pick the measures of success. If you add the competitive aspect of a business simulation course, what you get is a highly engaged audience ready to learn.

Constrained creativity not only explains why business simulations are so engaging but also why your customer may place a higher value on a customized business simulation that they help create (for some ideas on customized business simulations see Align before you customize, Custom Business Simulations – Guest Speakers). A Harvard Business School study called this the IKEA effect – the increase in value due to involvement or effort in the creation of something.

In order to maintain your audience engaged and be seen as more valuable for your customer, research suggests that you should provide constrained creativity in your business simulation exercises.

[1] Troy Campbell, Why People Crave Both Freedom and Constraint [online]

[2] Darren, D.W., Moreau, C.P., Thinking Inside the Box: Why Consumers Enjoy Constrained Creative Experiences. Journal of Marketing Research, Aug., 2007