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OM in the News: IKEA’s New Product Development and “Open Sourcing”

February 3, 2017

ikea“IKEA is making it easier for people to hack its furniture,” writes The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 30, 2017). The Swedish retailer plans a 2018 roll out of its first “open source” sofa—a piece of furniture designed to be easily customized to fit a space, or change functions entirely over time. It is called Delaktig, Swedish for “being part of something.” Delaktig’s design will allow third-party designers to create complementary products that can attach to the sofa or modify its use.

The move is a further embrace of a long inspired online community of “hackers” who share ideas for how to modify IKEA products. They have fashioned wall hangers from IKEA’s wooden bed slats, turned dressers into desks and raised IKEA beds using its kitchen cabinets and drawers.

IKEA didn’t encourage the tinkering, but nor did it actively discourage the trend. A niche industry has now grown up making everything from sofa covers to decorative table legs fitted just for IKEA’s particularly shaped furniture. Sweden-based Bemz AB, for instance, makes covers for IKEA sofas, footstools, headboards and armchairs. They can sell for more than the furniture itself. Prettypegs AB makes decorative furniture legs for IKEA beds, tables and stools.

IKEA said Delaktig was inspired by Apple, which helped create today’s app universe by allowing developers to create them for the iPhone. The company is also taking a page from the car industry, building a common, resilient platform upon which to create different models.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. How would you describe IKEA’s product strategy (see Chapter 5)?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of open sourcing?
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