Legacy and Innovation

I read an article called “How to Stand on Shoulders” (https://getpocket.com/a/read/1437178321) which is about coding actually, but it got me thinking. The author used the term “Not Invented Here.” Not Invented Here Syndrome (NIHS) is a mindset or corporate culture that favors internally-developed products over externally-developed products, even when the external solution is superior. (read here if you like dry white papers about the science behind these theories http://macroconnections.media.mit.edu/share/NotInventedHere.pdf . It’s about 20 pages long and even has charts and tables!)

If you replace the word “products” in the NIHS definition with some other words, you begin to see how it can infect so many areas of our lives and work.

Favoring internally-developed production methods keeps us tied to old ways of doing things even when other people have discovered and developed better ways.

Favoring internally-developed compensation structures prevents us from providing opportunity and incentive to our best people, and keeps us from attracting the best people to Kimray.

Favoring internally-developed management ideologies prevents us from benefitting from the successes (and failures) of other companies who have overcome many of the same things we face today.

The cure for NIHS is called “open innovation” and requires us to actively look for the best ideas, methods and systems no matter where they are. As importantly, we have to look in places and to people who do not look just like us. Kimray actually has some really cool DNA that matches this ideology. When Garman got involved in the medical world helping doctors resolve the life threatening issues their patients faced, he brought oil field engineering experience to bear. When Dr. Greenfield needed a way to capture blood clots in the leg without completely occluding the vein, he asked Garman if he could help. Garman immediately saw that the cone filters routinely used in fluid systems would work in the “pipes” of the body also, and the Greenfield-Kimmell Vena Cava Filter was born.

As we push towards our vision of a diversified company, we will have to fully embrace open innovation. We don’t have time to recreate the foundational elements that are already in existence. We need to find the best ideas and adapt them to our needs. We need to acknowledge that we are not the experts in many areas (maybe even in our own fields) and there is so much we can learn from others.

I find this is true in my personal life too. Keeping myself open to the input of others and to having my “normal” challenged is actually healthy for me. Otherwise I get stuck in a loop where my thoughts and ideas are reinforced by what I choose to read and hear which are filtered by my own thoughts and ideas. Round and round I go.

Why do people choose to stay bound by their own “normal”? It’s comfortable. Also, there is a fear that we will “throw the baby out with the bath water.” Which could happen. So how do we stay open and look for the best ideas and yet “keep the baby?”

The problem is defining what the “baby” is. At Kimray, the baby is The Kimray Way. The Kimray way is NOT about the machines we buy, or the tools we use, or the process we create. The Kimray Way is the REASON we do what we do. It is our Mission, our core values, and our culture. Everything else is bath water.

In the time of Jesus, the religious leaders had become completely focused on the “bathwater.” They were obsessed with following a series of rules, processes if you will, and allowed no deviation or questioning. Unfortunately, the rules were supposed to serve a much higher and larger purpose. They failed to see that purpose (love God and love others) and therefore missed it most of the time. More importantly, when someone came along who knew what the bigger picture was, (ok, he WAS the bigger picture) they failed to recognize him and eventually killed him because he didn’t fit into their view.

As a human I have to be on guard against my tendencies to want to be right and to be the one creating things. If I hold things to closely, I will most likely miss the point altogether.


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