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not invented here (NIH) syndrome

Contributor(s): Sarah Lewis

Not invented here (NIH) syndrome is the tendency for management to reject any idea that did not originate within the organization. This type of bias has its roots in xenophobia, the fear of anything strange or foreign. The automatic rejection of external products, services and methodologies is often fueled by narcissism and a desire to maintain complete control. When the NIH syndrome is ignored, employees are continually forced to reinvent the wheel, without any assurance that the new solution they create will be better than previously-available third-party solutions. 

The NIH syndrome can result in a loss of productivity and wasted resources, so it's important for managers to be aware of the syndrome and remain open to third-party products and services, including those supported by a crowdsourcing business model. In order to prevent NIH syndrome from becoming the status quo, guidelines should be put into place to help managers decide when it is more appropriate to use an external solution than create it in house.  Examples of use cases include:

  • No third-party solution can be found.
  • A third-party solution exists, but cost is prohibitive. 
  • A third-party solution exists, but it is not compatible with existing business practices, standards, programming languages or platforms.
  • A third-party solution exists, but it can not be customized. 
  • A third-party solution exists, but it is registered under a license that does not comply with the intended use.

This was last updated in October 2018

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