Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Removing the blinkers - beating Not Invented Here

Morgan w/ Blinkers
Originally uploaded by Just chaos

We all know the Not Invented Here syndrome – it’s one of the major cultural blockers in KM. “Not Invented Here” means, effectively, that “I do not trust the knowledge of others”. If I haven’t invented it myself, I won’t accept it. Often I won't even look at it.

In many ways, you can understand what drives this. If you have “invented” the knowledge yourself, you know it works and you know its provenance. It is a proven factor that you can personally vouch for. However the knowledge is yours and yours alone, and it is very unlikely that you will know everything about the topic. There is bound to be a lot more knowledge out there, if you can be induced to accept it. "Not Invented Here" is like wearing blinkers, it really reduces your vision of the available knowledge and the available possibilities.

We can start to address NIH in several ways. Firstly, we start to extend the concept of what “Here” means, so that “Invented Here” comes to mean “invented in my Community of Practice” rather than “invented by me”. This is a great breakthrough; the first step in treating knowledge as communal and not personal (see video).

However another powerful weapon against NIH was applied by a team leader in Aberdeen, Scotland to great effect, as part of a KM system which delivered $85 million savings in a single project. He called it “No Single Source Solutions”.

The way “No Single Source Solutions” works, is that the leader sets the rule that he will not accept a solution invented only by the team. He wants every solution to come from multiple sources. So if there is a problem or challenge, the team look widely, to see what has been done already, and pick the best of the best current solutions. So “Invented Here” will not be accepted. Every solution MUST have a component that has been invented elsewhere.

"No Single Source Solutions" is a simple rule, but if you stick to it as a leader, then you have cut off NIH at the source, and removed one of the most pernicious cultural barriers to KM.

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