INSIGHTS

Barriers to Innovation and New Product Development
Part 2 - Not Invented Here Syndrome

Published 29 November 2018

To create, develop and nurture new ideas and transform them into successful new product launches for your business, you will always be fighting on two fronts – externally (customers, competitors, regulations, etc.) and internally (organisational structure, and other potential blockers). In this series of short articles, we identify many of the internal barriers you are likely to have to deal with during your career and how you might overcome them.

Not Invented Here Syndrome

I first experienced the infamous ‘Not Invented Here Syndrome’ very early on in my career, when I was sent to one of our company’s overseas affiliates to work on developing some new technology and products with them. I was quite surprised as a young, naïve technologist to be confronted with negative attitudes by the local team. After all, surely we were working on the same team? It was only many years later, after I came back into contact with this same company much later on in my career, that I discovered that this overseas company had only been acquired by our parent company one year prior to me first arriving to work with them. It seemed obvious to me 20 years later, as a more experienced, mature individual, that the ‘Not Invented Here’ attitude I had encountered was a result of poor integration of the newly acquired company into the wider corporate business. These people did not feel part of the new Group that had just acquired them. They were probably worried about job security and the future of their site. They were no doubt proud of their expertise in their field and did not take kindly to some young newbie being sent over by their new corporate owners to show them how to do things. But I was not aware of any of these things when I first went there. My boss did not mention it before I went. No one thought to brief me.

 

How do you get over ‘Not Invented Here Syndrome’? You first have to empathise with these people, and from that as a foundation, you need to get to know them on a personal level, you have to listen to them, to their ideas, to their complaints, just like being their manager in fact. You have to work to build a team effort and a team ethic on the project. If you come with new technology to be implemented at their site, you have to let them criticise it (and you must take it on the chin, don’t take it personally) and you have to let them do some tweaking to ‘improve’ it, and at some point, when they’ve done enough ‘tweaking’ and ‘putting it right’, they will reach a tipping point, and suddenly it becomes ‘theirs’ and they will then own it and implement it. Job done! As with many barriers to innovation, this is about people, not about technology.

Dr Andy Wynn

Managing Director, TTIP Consulting

Adapted from the book ‘Transforming Technology into Profit – a guide to leading new ideas through the complexities of the corporate world and transforming them into successful new products’, available now on Amazon

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