After 70 years, hundreds of millions of copies, and countless hours of inspiration to armchair interior designers, Ikea has done the unthinkable:
It has decided to kill its beloved catalog.
“Over the years it has become an iconic and beloved publication, and it has been an important success factor for IKEA to reach and inspire the many people across the world,” the company said in a statement.
“But times are changing. IKEA has become more digital and accessible while embracing new ways to connect with more people. Customer behavior and media consumption has changed, and the IKEA Catalog has been less used.”
[We have] therefore taken the emotional but rational decision to respectfully end the successful career of the IKEA Catalog, both the print and digital versions – and look to the future with excitement.”
There’s a lot to unpack here…but four words noticeably stick out:
Ikea called this an “emotional but rational decision.”
In that simple phrase, we find a brilliant lesson in emotional intelligence that every business can learn from.
Emotional but rational
The decision to shutter its catalog couldn’t have been easy for Ikea.
After all, Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea’s founder, put together the first catalog himself in 1951, sending out 285,000 copies (all in Swedish.) And at its peak in 2016, Ikea distributed 200 million copies of the catalog in 32 languages and more than 50 markets.
But Ikea says its customers have drastically changed the way they shop, and that interest in the publication has weakened since 2016. With Ikea.com’s worldwide online retail sales having reportedly increased by 45 percent last year alone, the company continues to focus on its digital strategy–including a continuously improving company website, a suite of apps, and social media.
There’s also an interesting caveat to this story: Although Ikea explicitly stated that “the beloved IKEA Catalog as we know it today will not continue” …
…it still produced a 2021 catalog.
And while that catalog is currently only available digitally in the U.S., the company says the printed version will be available in stores later this year. (In Canada, customers can still get a printed copy mailed to their personal address by request.)
Point being: The company could always change its mind and bring the catalog back in the future, and simply change its distribution model. In doing so, they’d likely save millions in printing and postage costs, while stoking desire for the “new” version of the catalog.
So, what can you learn from Ikea’s “emotional but rational” decision?
Times continue to change. So while you may be emotionally attached to the way you’ve always done things…you have to take a long, hard look at the facts.
It pays to ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there initiatives or processes that are currently hurting your bottom line, but which you’re afraid or unwilling to cut out?
- How can you change things in a way that brings improvement–while capturing the spirit of what previously made things great?
- And finally, can you make a change while leaving yourself an escape clause?
Emotional intelligence isn’t about taking emotions out of the equation. It’s about finding a balance between logic and emotion, because you need both.
So, if you want to continue to propel your business forward, take a page out of Ikea’s playbook…
And make your decisions emotional, but rational.