THANK GOODNESS IT’S MONDAY
THE NIH VIRUS: PROFIT KILLER
In the late spring I alerted you to the outbreak of PLOM, an infection that I suggested, with tongue in cheek, had potential to be as devastating as so-called swine flu. (You could refresh your memory by looking at TGIM #207.)
Now in our neck of the woods the cold and flu season is truly upon us and, in a similar spirit, I’d like to post this –
The deadly NIH virus
from Research & Development labs
Not Invented Here
“Not Invented Here” is a phrase first heard in R&D operations when the people in charge adopted an attitude of “I don’t want any ideas around here that aren’t mine.” And despite all the clamor about open-source computer programming, it often dominates the thinking of code writers in today’s high tech world.
Not your neighborhood? Don’t think isolation will protect you. Perhaps someone in your operation has already caught some form of the bug.
NIH rears its deadly head outside R&D in phrases such as:
- “We tried that once and it didn’t work …”
- “But that’s not how we do things …”
- “We couldn’t change that now …”
- “That’s the boss’ pet project; his exclusive domain …”
- “When you’ve been here as long as I have, then you’ll understand …”
Of course if people said these actual words aloud often enough, the profit-killing effects of NIH thinking might be spotted sooner and halted more easily.
But they don’t usually say them.
They just act them out. The NIH virus is spawned in petty political maneuvering, nourished by insecurity, and spread by those who contend they have the best interests of “everyone” at heart – but don’t.
NIH carriers come to care more about protecting what they have than about developing anyone or anything new. They discourage open dialogue and encourage those who support them in their jealous protection of past accomplishments and fading historic successes.
Not Invented Here and its mutations can stifle creativity and progress and wreak havoc throughout organizations of all sizes and types. For the susceptible, NIH symptoms first appear as declining enthusiasm, lessened commitment to the goals of the entire organization and withering creativity.
In an economic environment like today’s, the cumulative effect of these maladies can prove fatal.
TGIM ACTION IDEA: Inoculate yourself and your company. Like the airline “oxygen mask” instruction to first put on your own mask before assisting others, first check yourself for any NIH indications. Then spread the good habits that will ensure the good health of others.
TGIM IDEA IN ACTION: Vaccines are often made of the very viruses that cause the disease. Apply that principle here. Use the basic “pride” inherent in NIH thinking – but without the defensive and exclusive elements – to support your own “immune” system and to counter the spread of NIH among the people you care about.
Take the leadership role. Champion the position that progress comes about only when people can earn recognition for their ideas and contributions. Anything less stifles creativity and forward motion.
Case in point: Think of an accomplishment you’re particularly proud of. Remind yourself that, at some point in any career, if a superior had taken an NIH approach, you could not have accomplished that.
Remind others you suspect of harboring NIH sentiments of similar personal experiences. Tell them, instead of adamantly protecting the status quo, pass the pride along.
With a “pass the pride” attitude, the first reaction to virtually any not-totally-off-the-hook idea that surfaces should be –
Appreciation. Even if the proposal actually is an old loser that’s proven itself unacceptable time and time again, the first reaction should be to commend the effort in coming up with the thought at this time.
Oops! Did that last paragraph seem to be tainted by a bit of NIH thinking?
You bet it did. It may sound trite, but times do change – and change with increasing rapidity. So don’t be so fast to dismiss a newly presented idea even when your experience makes you think “old loser.”
We can’t know it all — no matter how hard we strive to keep current. So take the time to listen and reflect on ideas in the light of new developments. Couple that approach with regard for the proposer’s knowledge and you’ll be less prone to mandate the same old decisions and thereby halt the spread of NIH thinking.
I’m proud to say: I think these are ideas worth considering. And I appreciate your considering them.
Alexander Publishing & Marketing
8 Depot Square
Englewood, NJ 07631
P.S. “I do not invent my best thoughts; I find them.” Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963), perhaps best known as the author of the inventive novel Brave New World, said that.
P.P.S. We pass along with pride many inventive new, repurposed and “good, old” proven-in-action, easy-to-implement secrets and strategies in the Best Year Ever Program. Consider them HERE.
GEOFF STECK leads Alexander Publishing & Marketing, a company he formed in 1986. The core AP&M mission: To create and publish leadership, sales mastery, self-improvement and workplace skill-building resources and tools. The focus: Areas such as business communication, staff support, customer care and frontline management. Geoff also puts his corporate and entrepreneurial experience, independent perspective, and skills as a catalyst to work for other firms (ranging from multinational corporations to more modest operations), not-for-profits, and individuals who have conceived or developed programs or initiatives but are frustrated in getting them implemented.