A lot of innovation teams think that in order to be innovative, to be really creative, you have to be completely original.
That means, that you need to create everything yourself.
Even if it means starting from zero, where parts of what you need already exist in the market and can be used freely.
This could not be further from the truth.
And innovation teams which try to do everything themselves end up wasting a huge amount of time and resources because they reject ideas and knowledge which was “Not invented here”.
“Not invented here” syndrome
The not-invented-here syndrome (NIH) describes a negative attitude toward knowledge (ideas, technologies) derived from an external source.
Research shows that this is especially prevalent in teams which aim to develop new ideas, as they want to prove the value of what they have created.
A seminal research study from 1982 followed the progress of 50 Research & Development groups in a large laboratory to see how their performance changed over time.
The research showed that performance in the teams increases up to 1. 5 years tenure, stays steady for a time but by five years has declined noticeably.
The reason the researchers found was that by 1.5 years, there was a marked decline in communication rate among group members and between them, and they became critical of external sources of information.
This is however not just an issue in R&D Departments.
I have seen firsthand how many creative people and innovation teams want to build products from the ground up, including all of the underlying technology, even though there may be perfectly good parts, templates or systems which can be partially used openly available on the market.
Often the team will say that it does not make sense to pay for something when it could be developed “for free” by their own team.
But the big lie is that it is not free.
It costs time.
And time in companies equates to peoples salaries.
So if several people are working on building something for a few weeks or months, just in salary that would likely cost tens of thousands of dollars. Much more than it would have costed to use the already available options, which would also have been available immediately.
Not to mention, because the people providing those off-the-shelf options usually have them as their entire focus, they are likely to have been tested thoroughly and work from day 1.
How can you reduce the impact of NIH?
Well, make sure that teams continue to communicate openly.
But also consider mixing up the teams.
Other research has shown how more diverse teams, which change over time, continue to bring in fresh perspectives and keep result in higher creativity.
And remind your teams, in order to build a better car, you don’t need to start from square one and reinvent the wheel.
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