NIH: a common but sinister disease

It’s common experience. You come up with a bright idea, sound it out with friends, sleep on it, and conclude that it appears robust and worthwhile. But when you take it to your boss, they come up with a shedload of excuses as to why it won’t work.

Sometimes, later, you discover that your bright idea was put forward as if it was your boss’s, and has earned them kudos, and you no credit at all. Or they may just bury it, only for someone else to come up with the same idea, and get heaps of praise, when you should have done so.

This is NIH: not that vast conglomeration of centres of medical excellence in Bethesda, MD (the National Institutes of Health), but the all too common condition that pervades organisations of all sizes – not invented here.

To a manager, NIH is part of the process of defending your position and power. Don’t let the minions think that they are good enough to come up with anything of worth or value; that way they will stay minions, and you will stay in charge. It’s as primitive as a dominant stag roaring and grunting from the top of the tump during the rut, and all too often as drunk with testosterone.

NIH is incredibly short-sighted.

Not only does it drive dissent among the minions, but it corrodes the whole organisation. Presumably one day the manager will move on, maybe to greater things, leaving a pool devoid of talent, selected by the effects of NIH to obey without thinking. By stifling good ideas, it ensures that the workgroup remains less efficient and effective than it should be, making it vulnerable to external review, criticism, and drastic action.

Good managers know that encouraging their staff to think creatively and come up with suggestions is the only route to long-term survival, or growth. They know that recognition of talent in their staff, and efforts to develop that talent, reflects strongly on them. Of course managing bright, creatively-thinking staff is harder than suppressing a herd of braindead zombies. It is also more interesting, exciting, and far more rewarding.

So the next time that you feel a touch of NIH coming on, think what you would feel like if your ideas were stifled or stolen. Champion your staff and their ideas, don’t suppress or repress them.