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Business Leaders: Beware the IKEA Syndrome

book learning

“The day I stop learning something new, is the day I begin dying.”
Himatsinh M. Babla, My Father, My Inspiration

My father is a young 80 years and still active selling auto parts and learning about auto parts. He can look at a part and tell you which model car/truck it belongs to and the corresponding part number that is on the shelf of his store. In essence he is a walking encyclopedia of auto parts. He has been learning and perfecting his craft since the mid-1950’s, until today. The journey of learning continues to this day.

There are two questions I always ask those who want to go into business:
(1) What are you doing to keep relevant?
(2) Do you read (not fiction) regularly?

Generally, only about 10% are active in personal development and the same people happen to be the ones that also read book regularly. 1 in 10, WOW!

Now I am not suggesting that reading books is the only method for learning. However, in my view reading would have to be a prominent part of any suite of tools for personal development.

Over the years, I have observed that there are many in business who have developed the IKEA syndrome—“I Know Everything Already”. This is a dangerous condition for anyone to have especially when information in the world is doubling every 2 years, according to Digital Universe.   According to numerous studies, based on the subject matter, human knowledge, too, is doubling every 2-5 years.

I would suggest that being trapped in the IKEA syndrome is fatal to any business. Unfortunately this syndrome manifests just when new knowledge is required–the longer a business has been operating or the longer a person has been in their career. Complacency sets in and the IKEA syndrome creeps in to the business or personal psyche.

Many times “I know everything already” manifests itself in different postures:

• “We already have this figured out”
• “We are really good at this”
• “We have been doing this for ____years”
• “This is how everyone in the industry does it”
• “This is how it is done”
• “Ours is a people business, technology is not required” (i.e. I don’t want to take time to learn new technology)
• “I don’t understand this new technology”
• “You don’t understand, we have spent years perfecting _______”

When I hear such statements, my heart stops beating for a couple of seconds out of concern for that person. How will they retain their competitive advantage? How will they retain their edge? How will they retain and keep good employees? How will they keep attracting good customers who demand the best? How will they innovate? And the most serious question going through my mind, “How will they remain in business over the long run?”

A leader’s job is to create a vision for the business. By definition, vision is the ‘act or power of anticipation’. How can someone anticipate the future if they are stuck in the past? Their entire realm of experience will be rooted in the past ignoring the changing world around them and trying to anticipate a future. To me a leader cannot do his or her job of anticipating the future without sufficient study and preparation today, while appreciating the experience gained from the past. The world around us is changing fast; customer needs and expectations too are changing at an accelerated pace. Any business leader adapting the IKEA mentality is placing a death sentence on their business.

If a business leader wishes to grow their business by keeping relevant, then they cannot get trapped in the IKEA syndrome.

I offer the following suggestions to avoid the IKEA syndrome. However, the journey must begin with a genuine desire to be the very best by learning and improving.

• Learn about your industry by attending conference and events
• Read magazines and articles pertaining to your business
• Talk to others in your industry who may be doing things differently
• Be around positive, forward thinking people
• Read good books that make you a better person ( at least 10 pages per day)
• Be open-minded to new technology
• Speak to and even hire young people that understand and use technology without any inhibitions
• Embrace change with open arms
• Leave your past on the curb
• Have faith in yourself

The moment you become willing to embrace change, the support of the entire universe will be with you.

About the Author
Harish Babla, CEO & Founder of Global Franchise Masters Pvt. Ltd., is passionate about growing companies and helping others achieve their dreams of building successful businesses, through the highest standards of excellence and unwavering commitment to serve the customer.