Not Invented Here Complex


Where pompous egos incur considerable expense and wastes a lot of time.

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A phenomenon I have run across on more than one occasion in my travels through the corporate world is what is commonly referred to as the “Not Invented Here” complex or simply “N.I.H.” I have encountered it in North America, Asia, Europe, and a little bit down-under in Australia. Basically, N.I.H. is a situation where an idea or invention is rebuffed simply because someone outside of the company thought of it first. The idea may be perfectly sound, but if it wasn’t invented internally, it is considered illegitimate.

The premise that something invented externally cannot be any good is a rather myopic and pigheaded point-of-view involving some rather large egos. Not surprising, larger companies are more inclined to adopt such an attitude as opposed to smaller ones. I don’t want to drop any corporate names here, but I have seen some rather large Fortune 500 companies say something to the effect, “Well, we’re the XYZ Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of widgets, and you’re just a small nobody; what makes you think you’re so smart?” Even after you carefully explain your idea and refute all of their objections, they still refuse to admit defeat. It is at this point when their superiority complex turns into a jealous rage. Now irritated, they reject the idea or invention and, instead, become hell-bent on reinventing it themselves. The only problem here is they have difficulty reproducing your invention and inevitably result in paying a lot more than you did. In other words, the people who believe in N.I.H. are the same people incurring exorbitant research and development costs. In all likelihood, they have as much of a chance of producing a better design of your invention, than you do of producing their widgets.

I find it interesting when pride clouds people’s minds in this regard. As for me, if someone has built a better mousetrap, I would much rather buy it than try to reinvent it myself at considerable expense. Basically, I want to just get on with the job.

Years ago we made a presentation to a large electronics company in California regarding our systems design methodology. The company politely listened to our pitch but afterwards made it clear they thought they could produce a better methodology themselves. After several months and a couple of million dollars trying to reinvent our wheel, they swallowed their pride and purchased our product. Costs had finally overtaken egos.

Plain and simply, N.I.H. is inflationary and a horrible price to pay for a pompous ego. I don’t care how big your company is, a good idea is a good idea, regardless of who invented it. Take the ego off the table and get the job done. I do not understand the compulsion by some people to reinvent the wheel.

Keep the Faith!