Innovation Fact 4b – Beware of the “not invented here” syndrome
Have you ever noticed how many people push the elevator button even though they can clearly see that you’ve already pushed it? Why do they have to do it themselves? Are they better at it?
People often assume that whatever they do themselves, they do it better. Unfortunately, the same psychological reflex also occurs during the development of new products or services.
There is a reason why brainstorms require you to not criticize ideas from other participants right away. It’s what we tend to do when an idea did not originate from us, whether we do this consciously or unconsciously.
Often there is a status concern involved in this rapid rejection of other people’s ideas. If you, as an expert in this matter, could not come up with this concept, how will this reflect on your capabilities?
We go defensive and try to kill the idea.
Why do we often neglect other ideas so quickly? Processing new concepts requires a lot of work from our prefrontal cortex. Our brain is wired to preserve mental resources, so it will try to resist this. Simultaneously, we don’t get the same good feeling by accepting other good ideas as we get from solving a challenge ourselves. When we make new and complex connections, our brain releases an uplifting rush of neurochemicals. Not so much when we hear someone else’s solution. Not invented here!
Be aware of this.
A famous example is the computer mouse. Douglas C. Engelbart invented the first mouse in 1964 and showed it off to the world’s leading computer scientists 4 years later. It was first used by Xerox on its Alto computer system in 1973. Still it remained an obscure computing accessory for almost 20 years until Apple released the Macintosh in 1984. Unlike a lot of people that had already seen working prototypes, Steve Jobs was not biased by the “not invented here” syndrome. He shamelessly stole the idea, improved the concept and made it an indispensable accessory.
So always look at ideas and concepts around you with an open mind and judge them by their value, not by their origin.