Strange question I know. The two, at first, seem completely unrelated. However, I was introduced to the Egg Theory whilst listening to the Ikea effect put forward by Dan Ariely as he went in search of answers to questions like “Does putting effort into something make you love it to a higher degree? And if so, how does it affect us service designers?” During his research he came across an interesting example which was known as the egg theory.
Both, Dan’s Ikea effect and The Egg theory relate to the amount of effort required to make something relative to the value you place on it. The story goes that back to the day when cake mixes were first manufactured. It was thought that housewives of that day would naturally be as drawn to the cake mixes as they were to other mixes such as biscuits and muffins etc. Launching their cake mixes, the manufactures thought that sales would soar. However the opposite proved to be true. They did not take off nearly as well as expected. This left them a little dumbfounded and they decided to dig a little deeper to understand the reason for the poor sales. Upon investigation they found that the reason for the cake mixes not selling as well as expected was that they required too little effort. In those days when purchasing a cake mix all that was required was to add water. Although the finished cake tasted great and looked good, the fact that only water was added meant that the baker, in most cases the housewife, was required to put in so little effort that she felt she could not take credit for it. In response to this, the manufacturer swiftly removed some of the basic ingredients from the mix, such as the egg. These ingredients needed to be added in by the baker. The result, the mixes started selling like “hot cakes” – excuse the pun! This since became known as the Egg Theory.
So, what does this possibly have to do with the way we design and deliver learning? Well if you think about it, for a very long-time learners were required to put in minimal effort when it came to their learning in the workplace. They had for the most part been told what they needed to learn from a compliance perspective, what they should learn from a developmental perspective-constrained by budget of course, when and where they could learn. Almost zero effort was required beyond just showing up or logging on. Very little value was placed on learning, especially with regards to something like compliance training. If we apply the Egg Theory to the way we design and deliver learning in future, we will not only empower learners but also increase the value they place on their learning.
We need to enable learners to add to the mix, not throw it out completely. We provide the base mix, which means that we enable learners to self-direct within a well-defined competency aligned playing field. We guide them with regards to the ingredients they will need. We provide a means through which they can clearly understand and define their unique learning needs. We outline the method to follow, i.e. connect them into a learning ecosystem through which they are able to access expertly curated content aimed at promoting deep learning. Finally, because the proof of the pudding is in the taste, we give them a way to measure their progress.
By enabling learners to be more self-directed and empowering them to actively participate in the design and development of their learning journeys they can take credit for their learning, and in so doing place increased value on this experience.