When brainstorming as a team, ensure that the problem is not just being solved by someone in the room, but encourage the team to look for options from outside as well
Senior leaders need to encourage a more entrepreneurial culture where people feel more comfortable about sharing knowledge to improve productivity of the team/ organization
As Humans, most of us naturally find it more enjoyable to speak than to listen. I hear people talk at team meetings, external forums where I am invited as a speaker or part of a panel discussion- the list is endless!
Here are common mindsets I see come across:
“We are the best and we can do it better than you”.
“If you want it done right- do it yourself”.
There are many who will go to great lengths to stop anyone else’s plan from being approved for the simple reason that he/she couldn’t think of one himself.
Most of us find it hard to admit that the other guy had a better idea than we did, or did a better job implementing the idea than we could have ever done.
We are reluctant to accept ideas.
We believe, work done by a previous person is sub-par and hence must be re-created from scratch and it cannot be reused.
Overall, there is a ‘herd instinct’ that comes across at times lead by those individuals who are petty.
They refuse to do what’s in the best interest of the overall organization because they can’t find a way to take credit themselves!
This is a disease and it is plaguing our organizations. The scariest part is not many are even consciously aware of it staring at them in the face.
This Disease goes by the Name: Not- Invented- Here (NIH)/ Invented-But-Let’s-Reinvent-It-Anyway’ syndrome that stifles innovation.
Disease Description: A social phenomenon that describes the unwillingness of adopting an idea or a product because of its origin.
Primary symptom: A rash of reinventing the wheel and celebrating how new and different it is. (Recall actors in interviews saying “This film is very different, nothing like this has been done before” when the only difference is the same old rom-com has been packaged with a different cast and director thrown in maybe.)
Secondary symptoms: Waste of time, effort, energy, money and opportunity lost
Common Victims: Individuals, who have inferiority complexes, are stubborn, argumentative and have absence of creative thought
The silver lining on the cloud is that this ailment much like many others has a cure.
Treatments for the Disease: Here are a few ways of tackling the NIH syndrome:
First admit there is a problem: This is the hardest part. Admitting that we as individuals or as an organization have this herd mentality that we need to collectively overcome. Admitting it is a positive step in the right direction.
Cure thyself: If senior management/ senior leaders are infected by the disease, it can be very infectious. So veterans out there, lead by example and make a conscious effort to get over this syndrome (once you admit to having it). For starters, encourage a more entrepreneurial culture to emerge where people feel more comfortable about sharing knowledge in order to improve the overall productivity of the team/ organization. At MphasiS for instance, we have a Re-use portal that encourages individuals to share code, best practices etc. that will benefit teams across the organization. Similarly, we have a knowledge sharing portal on the company intranet and many communication forums for key employee groups to come together and share knowledge collectively.
Continuous Learning: Take time to invest in learning, training, reading for yourself so that you continually expand your learning to different areas and apply innovative ideas from those areas to benefit your work. Find ideas and blend them in new ways. Become aware of what options are already available. This will go a long way in helping you/your team take a decision on the way forward for a problem. Break the walls of arrogance within the team members. When brainstorming as a team, ensure that the problem is not just being solved by someone in the room, but encourage the team to look for options from outside as well. For instance, we replaced the annual employee engagement survey with a NPS (Net Promoter Score) approach based on a review I was part of and got to witness how brilliantly it worked for a smaller project team in one of our business units. We presented the findings to the leaders who saw value in doing this across the organization and it has been implemented effective this year.
Shed the Perfectionist attitude: Do not look at existing solutions and reject them for minor reasons/gaps. There may be faults alright but ask yourself/have the team ask themselves- are the gaps significantly large to start from scratch???
Reward Behavior: If a team member has used an old idea in new way, share it with others. Celebrate the individual. At our HR team Quarterly Town hall, we have an award category that rewards the individual who does more with less.
Encourage Change: Most individuals reject the norm due to fear of change. Use positive reinforcement. Some of the best positive reinforcements are free such as genuine and positive feedback when something is done right and encourage re-use in this manner.
These pointers do not apply just for in-house collaborations across teams alone, but also when we are evaluating use of external versus internal options. To start off with use a simple solution—if it is core HR function, do it in house. For instance, build your own competency framework basis research around what is already out there and what works best for the DNA of your organization. Outsource what is not core and invest more time in core.
Remember, not all the people working for you are smart, but if you are truly smart you will realize the benefits of leveraging the discoveries of the smart so that the team/company can produce spectacular results.
This can mean leveraging teams across the organization itself or also building partnerships externally. Word of caution though, do not overdo re-use. I am not saying one has to completely switch to the ‘Proudly found elsewhere’ (PFE) syndrome.
As always in life, strike a balance, use a patchwork combination of both internal sources and external options with the ultimate aim being what is in the best interest of the organization.
I am hoping you are able to re-use some of the pointers shared in this article elsewhere.
Look forward to hearing from all of you.