Why Your Boss Won’t Kill His Pet Project

E. Forrest Christian Project Management Leave a Comment

People fall in love with what they work on, or so research by Michael Norton, Daniel Mochon and the ubiquitous Dan Ariely reports. They discovered that when people have to work to create something — like an IKEA bookshelf — they see it through rose-colored glasses. It’s not that you do what you love but that labor leads to loving what you do. It becomes part of your self-esteem.

This can lead managers to keep a failing project which they championed, Norton suggests in an interview with NPR (“Why You Love That Ikea Table, Even If It’s Crooked“). Of course, it also means that you will stick to something even when the going gets tough, something that has to have lent advantages more often than it causes problems. Effort and sticking to things is widely regarded better than wisely abandoning a lost cause, so if you are interested in getting a job, you will want to show staying power, as it were.

Talk to someone else, someone not associated with your efforts, to see if you should just call it a day. Maybe that effort is poorly placed. Take, for example, this blog. It may be a poor use of time. I would be a poor judge of whether it should be continued or not. The only way I could get a good view is to first determine what would a successful blog need in my situation in order to be seen as something worth continuing. Then I would have to gather metrics for those points and see if this blog passed or failed.

The original working paper is available from Harvard.

Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon, & Dan Ariely (2011). “The ‘IKEA Effect’: When Labor Leads to Love” Harvard Business School Marketing Unit Working Paper No. 11-091.

Image Credit: Tranquility. Lonely Pier towards Tahaa Island, © Mlenny Photography. Via iStock.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps individuals and companies find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants, both as individuals and as leaders of organizations at least as diverse. [contact]

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