Overcoming the “Not Invented Here” Idea

One of the biggest challenges facing public relations firms, advertising agencies and businesses in every sector is the "not invented here" syndrome. It works like this: new ideas are dismissed, put on the back burner or not properly funded because, well, they weren’t invented by the organization’s inner circle.

Detroit’s a great example of the not invented here syndrome. Top executives literally sat around for decades collecting paychecks, recycling old ideas and rejecting new ones because the Big Three had a proven formula. Well, the proven formula is a wreck and the Big Three are now eating the dust of foreign competitors.

John Kanzius is an out-of-the-box thinker. He also happens to be a retired radio and television executive who maybe, just maybe, has discovered the cure for cancer. Happily, Kanzius had the financial wherewithal to invest in his novel idea and happily, he found two major research centers, the University of Pittsburgh and M.D. Anderson, who were willing to risk taking Kanzius’s idea to the next level. The latter is critical. Kanzius’s idea never would have seen the light of day if the research organizations hadn’t been willing to embrace the new and unexpected.

The best organizations invite thinking from all employees, They also embrace outside thinking. We’ve purposely hired academics, journalists and designers precisely because they think differently than we do.

Ossified thinking kills businesses. Look at Smith-Corona. Or Pan Am. Those organizations who ignore the John Kanzius in their midst do so at their own peril.

Thanks to Deb Brown for the idea.

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