Not-Invented-Here (NIH) Syndrome

… a core concept used in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

BusinessDictionary (reference below) defines the not-invented-here syndrome as a dismissive attitude towards ideas or improvements suggested or implemented by others because, if they were worthwhile, ‘we’ would have already thought of them.

In its UV Letters blog (reference below), University Ventures applies to concept to teaching practices in higher education:

“Not invented here” syndrome is the tendency of colleges and universities to develop their own courses, programs, systems and processes rather than looking outside at what works and then doing that. “Not invented here” is understandable: a natural byproduct of intelligent faculty participating in shared governance and exercising academic freedom and intelligent administrators using their best judgment in a loosely managed organization. But it is pernicious. Colleges and universities are trying to achieve the same programmatic outcomes with similar student demographics. If a course, program, system or process works well in one setting, it’s highly likely it will work in another. So it is pernicious because it results in services that are delivered less efficiently and effectively.

Writing in the Journal of Technology Transfer, Kathoefer and Leker (reference below), note that the negative attitude to knowledge that originates from others can be observed on the level of the individual.

“The NIH Syndrome itself is not inherent to a person by birth but develops over time … three major antecedents emerge: First of all, human beings generally strive for security … changes (e.g. external knowledge integration) increase the level of uncertainty and thus make most people feel uncomfortable. By opposing or rejecting external ideas, a status quo can be maintained. … Secondly, security can be retained by introducing work routines. Often, these routines are disturbed by the confrontation with external knowledge. Consequently, people habitually resist these changes … Finally, the integration of external knowledge may injure a research group’s pride. People may feel affronted when external ideas are regarded as superior to their own.”

Lisa Schmidthuber and her colleagues (reference below) examine the impact of the NIH syndrome on the move to open government:

“Opening up organizational processes to external actors enables a more efficient and effective public administration, but can also create new problems. Based on experience from the private sector, one such issue which may hamper the successful acquisition and exploitation of external knowledge is the Not-Invented-Here Syndrome (NIH). NIH describes the rejection of outside knowledge by internal actors.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Promoting Innovation and Driving Change (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107


BusinessDictionary, not invented here, at, accessed 16 March 2018.

University Ventures (2014), Not Invented Here, UV Letters, Volume IV, #12, 6 June 2014, at, accessed 16 March 2018.

David Grosse Kathoefer and Jens Leker (2010), Knowledge transfer in academia: an exploratory study on the Not-Invented-Here Syndrome, J Technol Transf (2012) 37:658–675.

Lisa Schmidthuber, David Antons, and Dennis Hilgers (2015), On the Bumpy Road towards Open Government: The Not-Invented-Here Syndrome as a Major Pothole, Academy of Management Proceedings, January 2015, abstract at, accessed 16 March 2018 .

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 16 March 2018.

Image: Gordon Tredgold, Not Invented Here Syndrome, at, accessed 16 March 2018.