Ingvar Kamprad often said that IKEA is the result of many people working together, in good times and bad. Even in the 1940s, when Ingvar founded IKEA, working closely together was an important part of its success. After all, from the beginning IKEA was run by Ingvar together with his parents and extended family, side by side on Elmtaryd farm. As the business grew, the company moved into the small office in Älmhult and then gradually out into the world. And no matter where you are, people work together to solve problems and find innovative solutions. That is at the heart of the culture. Everybody is equally important, everyone must be listened to and be able to make a contribution. Thus, togetherness is crucial to the company’s success.
Trust is key.
When IKEA describes its culture, the terms together and togetherness are virtually always front and centre. And it’s not just co-workers who are invited to be part of that togetherness, but also very much customers and suppliers. In fact, you could say that without togetherness, there would be no IKEA.
Ingvar always had a strong trust in people. That doesn’t only mean trust in the co-workers and suppliers, but also in the customers. Without their effort at the end of the production chain, IKEA would just be a flat pack. However, Ingvar and IKEA decided to trust the customers’ ability to handle the assembly part in their own home – and it worked. It isn’t always easy, and was even harder in the past before IKEA finally got the hang of how to produce decent assembly instructions.
In the 1990s, IKEA ran an ad slogan in Sweden stating, “We do half the work, you do half. Together we save money.” The idea was that by getting the job done together, everyone would come out a winner. It was the power of together that made it possible to produce good design and function of sustainable quality at low prices, the IKEA way.
Working and growing together
Working together to solve problems and find new solutions has been equally important when it comes to IKEA and its suppliers. Choice of materials, production methods, ideas on packaging and logistics, quality and design – everything is discussed and solved together. Working side by side with suppliers has always been a success factor for IKEA. And people who knew Ingvar Kamprad have said that being out working with suppliers, on the factory floor, was where he was at his happiest, discussing solutions with engineers from both IKEA and the supplier.
One example of the long tradition of working and growing together is the IKEA collaboration with the Polish supplier Prawda, starting in 1989. Over the years, Prawda has grown as IKEA has expanded. To begin with Prawda mainly made cushions, but soon expanded and moved into plywood and manufacturing of storage products.
In 2000 Prawda built a brand new production unit specialising in solid wood furniture, in line with increasing demand from IKEA customers. Today the company is one of northern Poland’s biggest employers. And despite its size, Prawda is still fundamentally a family-run business, which sees IKEA as part of the family.
Homes of the future
At IKEA, togetherness involves having faith in people’s capabilities, as well as an optimistic approach to the job. One has to believe that there is strength in trusting one another, helping and challenging one another. Togetherness at IKEA is also about the company’s aim to include different perspectives in order to stay relevant to many different people. That means creating opportunities for many different voices to have their say.
Nowadays, IKEA increasingly tries to open up and let customers be a part of exploring what and how a home can be, today and in the future. The company’s curiosity about the age it exists in and the future of mankind, has also sparked collaborations with everyone from musicians to astronauts and ecologists. That little word, together, has become a concrete working method for IKEA, while also being a fundamental requirement for its survival.