Not Invented Here

Not Invented Here Not Invented Here (NIH) is ever-present and misunderstood.
An operational definition of NIH: Group 1 creates new thinking that falls within the official domain of Group 2. When presented with the new thinking, Group 2 rejects it.

It is said Group 2 rejects new thinking because they’re threatened. But that’s too high level to be helpful. To get at the root of it, we need to dig.

First, some NIH:

  • Your new thinking is out of alignment with my priorities. Even if I spend a lot of time to understand it, I’m afraid I’ll fail. I reject your new thinking.
  • Your new thinking is out of alignment with responsibility. (That thinking should come from me.) If I adopt your new thinking, I’ll look stupid, and I’m afraid I’ll fail. I reject your new thinking.
  • Your new thinking is out of alignment with my knowledge. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I reject your new thinking.
  • Your new thinking is out of alignment with how I do things. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I reject your new thinking.

Now, some non-NIH :

  • My priorities are out of alignment with your new thinking. Though I already have several good ideas that I don’t have time for, can you give me more details so together we can combine the best elements?
  • My responsibility is out of alignment with your new thinking, but your new thinking is good. Can you give me more details so together we can investigate possibilities?
  • My knowledge is out of alignment with your new thinking. Can you give me more details so we can learn together?
  • My way of doing things is out of alignment with your new thinking. Can you give me more details so together we can rethink things?

The key to NIH reduction is to create alignment. With your new thinking not yet fully formed, ask Group 2 for their input. Better yet, ask for their help. Tell them what you don’t know, tell them what you have wrong, tell them how they have a better perspective because it’s their domain, and ask them to help improve it. (All this is best done informally and off-line, at least to start.)

One little-known fact about NIH – it’s pronoun sensitive. Take care to replace I, you, and yours with we.

image credit: deanamurph

Like Innovation Excellence on Facebook

Don’t miss an article (4,500+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Innovation Excellence group!


Mike ShipulskiDr. Mike Shipulski brings together the best of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Axiomatic Design, TRIZ, and lean to develop innovative products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.

This entry was posted in Creativity, Innovation, Leadership & Infrastructure, People & Skills, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Not Invented Here

  1. From the perspective of private inventors I’ve blogged about this myself at http://www.abettermousetrap.co.uk/2011/08/not-invented-here’-fact-or-fiction/.

    Broadly, I have much more sympathy for Group 2 than you’d perhaps allow. When railing against NIH, many members of Group 1 instinctively take the position that they’ve got something superior and it’s being wilfully ignored. Often Group 1 hasn’t got anything at all and Group 2 simply hasn’t the time or inclination to go through it with them.

    While I wouldn’t rule out NIH – and if both groups belong to the same outfit, something certainly is wrong – I think in practice the rejection of Group 1 ideas often has much more to do with their being presented badly or to the wrong organisation.

  2. Graham, when it comes to NIH, there are no clean hands. I agree that Group 1 contributes to the problem in a number of ways. One important one – Group 1 does not appreciate the importance of Group 2′s timeline to launch products. And, as you say, delivery matters. When Group 1 does not appreciate the reality of timelines, Group 2 has good reason to look past Group 1′s new concept.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Keep Up to Date

  • FeedBurner
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Slideshare
  • Email
  • YouTube
  • IPhone
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Stumble Upon

Innovation Authors - Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson

Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and strategic advisors to many of the world’s leading companies.

“Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.”