Silos and Reinventing the Wheel: Why Rebooting the Familiar Can Be Revolutionary

We’ve all encountered it: the organizational aversion to anything resembling, well, anything that’s been done before. The “not invented here” (NIH) syndrome can be a stifling roadblock, especially when faced with the need to turn around struggling business units or fix broken processes. But what if the very things we dismiss as old hat actually hold the key to unlocking success?

NIH is often the result of pride that makes an organization believe that they can solve a problem in a better way than pre-existing solutions already do. (1)

My experience has taught me a powerful lesson: sometimes, the most revolutionary solutions lie not in reinventing the wheel, but in effectively implementing proven practices, while simultaneously fostering better communication across the organization.

Tearing Down the Silos: Communication as the Cornerstone of Change

Imagine a company riddled with internal silos, where information trickles down like molasses in January. Departments operate in isolation, unaware of each other’s challenges and opportunities. This lack of transparency breeds misunderstanding, duplication of effort, and ultimately, stagnation.

The first step towards fixing this broken dynamic is clear: improve intraorganizational communication. Breaking down the silos fosters collaboration, builds trust, and allows for the cross-pollination of ideas. Suddenly, knowledge and best practices start flowing freely, enabling teams to learn from each other and identify solutions that might have otherwise remained hidden.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Embracing Industry Standards

Now, let’s address the “reinventing the wheel” mentality. While innovation is crucial, there’s immense value in leveraging existing knowledge and proven practices. Industry standards, for instance, represent the collective wisdom of countless players who have already grappled with and overcome similar challenges.

Instead of dismissing these standards as uninspired copycats, consider them a launchpad for progress. By adopting and effectively implementing them, we can save time, avoid costly trial-and-error, and leverage the collective expertise of the industry. This doesn’t mean blind adherence – adaptation and customization are still key. But the foundation provided by established best practices allows us to focus our energy on refining and optimizing, rather than starting from scratch.

It’s not about being the first, it’s about being the best.

Remember, it’s not about being the first, it’s about being the best. By prioritizing clear communication and embracing industry standards, we can unlock the transformative power of the familiar. We can stop spinning our wheels and start propelling our organizations forward, fueled by the collective wisdom of those who have come before us.

Further Food for Thought:

Choosing to use proven practices or deploy ‘existing tools’ may be met with skepticism. Some companies pride themselves on NIH. But remember, sometimes, the most revolutionary solutions are hidden in plain sight, waiting to be embraced and adapted for our own unique journeys. Agility is less about how fast we can do it ourselves and more about how fast we can add value to our stakeholders.

(1) What is Not Invented Here Syndrome, Stephen Watts, The Business of IT Blog, 2020
(2) Build vs. Buy: How to Know When You Should Build Custom Software Over Canned Solutions, Chuck Cohn, (Forbes, 2014)
(3) Shipping Product Features – The Ultimate Build vs. Buy Framework, Brian Yam, Paragon