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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

School Admissions and the Importance of the IKEA Hotdog

I came across a blog this week by Sebastian Rappen. Bringing the principles of human centred design to the everyday problems that we face in our life and work, Rappen connects the work of Daniel Kahnemann, author of Thinking Fast and Slow, with a trip to IKEA.

The root of this idea is Kahnemann’s distinction between the “Experiencing Self” and the “Remembering Self”. To put it simply, when we go to IKEA, whilst there is a part of us that is living in the present and unconsciously experiencing the seemingly endless journey through the store, there is another part of us - the remembering self - that is slow, rational and conscious; and it is this remembering self that will ultimately tell the story of how we think about our experience. The remembering self lays down the memory that we will look back on at some point in the future.

And this is precisely, according to Rappen, why the 50-cent hot dog is so important.

Whilst you experience the ups and down of an IKEA visit, you most likely will only remember the first and last bits of it, when evaluating your experience in hindsight. In the given IKEA example this means: The entire trip would end as a disaster without hot-dogs: With hot-dogs however a much more positive memory is being stimulated.

An illustration of the highs and lows of a trip to IKEA
Rappen plots the customer journey of a trip to IKEA and shows how important that hot dog is to the overall experience.

Standing in the queue, alongside other IKEA customers this weekend, waiting to pay for a range of household items, with my inevitable hot dog “reward” within sight but still at least twenty minutes away, I reflected on what this means for those of us who are responsible for designing the customer journey in which families try to secure an education for their children in our schools. I found myself asking, What’s our hot dog? What are we offering the remembering selves of parents and their children that will frame their memory of transitioning into our school?

I’m not convinced that there is one right answer here. But I am convinced that, for many families, the experience of school admissions is not unlike the endless aisles of overwhelming choice, queues, payment options, and the eventual frustration of finding out that the item (school) they want is no longer in stock.

So let’s think together what we can do to ensure that, whatever happens along the way, the memory that is laid down is more by design than left to chance.

Cover photo by Semen Borisov on Unsplash


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