Not Invented Here Syndrome

This phenomenon is not restricted to the software world. It’s prevalent throughout every industry, every facet of our lives. So why mention it regarding going viral?

Going viral is hard work. It’s made harder when there are barriers or obstacles to overcome, and there are always barriers and obstacles. Because going viral is hard, you need to do the right things and not waste time on useless or unnecessary things. Common sense, right?

The problem with the “Not Invented Here Syndrome” is that people think they have the best widget/gadget/software in the world for their planned conquest—but they really don’t. The result is a product and go to market strategy that falls flat on its face.

When a company falls prey to this condition, they stop looking. They stop looking at the competition, they stop looking at the market, they stop looking objectively at their own product(s), they stop looking at what the customers need and want. Their own opinions and beliefs outweigh the realities of what they are striving to achieve.

It’s a tough slog going to market when your product is not the best and your marketing misses the mark. Yes, I have done this. But I also knew my shortcomings, had realistic expectations and used that first foray to generate revenue so that I could build a better mousetrap and compete effectively.

This condition can happen to small start-ups, but it’s most common in large companies that have enjoyed market dominance and they start believing their own press. Meanwhile some young turks out there are focused on doing the impossible and building a better product while the mega-company is convinced they are the be-all and end-all, only coming out with incremental improvements or cosmetic enhancements while the new guys are changing the world.

And what about the company that was the only player in a space, the product is actually mediocre, but their dominant position prevented competition? And then a young upstart comes along with a much better product and starts eating away at market share? How does the goliath respond? What is their mindset when facing an adversary for the first time?

If you think your product is the best, so what? It’s only the best until consumer tastes or expectations change or another whipper-snapper comes along and beats your pants off.

If your market research conclusively proves you have the better mouse trap, congratulations! But remember: sports teams don’t automatically win the championship the following year. Other teams get better, your stars age or get hurt, and the next thing you know you’re playing .500 ball.

Business is the same. Markets change, new products come and go. Just because you’re #1 now doesn’t entitle you to remain #1 forever. Take the rose-colored glasses off and look. Keep the market research going to identify what’s changing, identify the competition, identify what you need to provide to stay competitive and especially better.

Constantly find out what your customers need and are going to need, build it, market it and sell it to them.

The moral of the story is, the moment you think you’re the best is (often) the moment you stop striving to be the best. It’s the moment when you stop paying attention and arrogance and complacency sets in.

Sometimes I think a company needs the threat of extinction to maintain focus, to stay sharp and constantly strive to be better. A little fear can be a great motivator that spurs folks into action.

If you want to become the best, if you want to remain the best, keep your eyes peeled at the market and your competition, and keep driving to create great products that customers want.


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