Monday, February 14, 2011

Not Invented Here, or Not?

You certainly heard the phrase before: "Not Invented Here", referring to the way that product developers have disdain for what their competitors make. I've thought it results largely from pride. We certainly see it in our work here at Aspen with a few clients - we are not consultants (we work for a living!) but we are still an outsider and so whatever we propose can sometimes be met with icy cold resistance. (Granted, in some cases, it is because the client's technical staff perceives us as a threat - we are doing something that they were hired to do and so they wonder how long the client will keep them around if we solve all their problems.) But as I said, this attitude is very pervasive and has been around for decades. It also can be good money for us. We have one client right now who decided in a big way to get into a market that has many little players in it. Rather than copying and slightly improving what exists, they have decided to start fresh. Consequently, they are repeating the entire learning curve that their competitors have already been through.

What is less common and even more shocking to me however, is the "Invented Here" attitude, where people have profound adoration for a competitor's ideas and products, and feel nothing but contempt for their own. I've only seen it only a couple of times, and it is quite strange, usually arising where sales/marketing/management has been burned too many times (i.e., once) by the technical team, and are unwilling to take another chance on them again. What I never understand is if the internal trust isn't there, why are the sales/marketing/management people still there? Why not move over to the competitors that they so admire? I suspect that even if such changes were made, it wouldn't be long before the "Invented Here" syndrome would take over again. It's just something that seems to be genetic and can't be avoided. And there is also good money in these situations too, as anything we bring in fits the requirements that it be from outside the company.

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