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Opening the Black Box of “Not Invented Here”: Attitudes, Decision Biases, and Behavioral Consequences

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The not-invented-here syndrome (NIH) describes a negative attitude toward knowledge (ideas, technologies) derived from an external source. Even though it is one of the most cited constructs in the literature on knowledge transfer, previous research has not provided a clear understanding of the antecedents, underlying attitudes, and behavioral consequences of NIH. The objective of our paper is to open the black box of NIH by providing an in-depth analysis of this frequently mentioned yet rarely understood phenomenon. Building on recent research in psychology and an extensive review of the management literature on NIH, we first develop a framework of different sources classifying knowledge as “external.” We then discuss how a perception as “external” may trigger the rejection of this knowledge, even if it is useful for the organization. Differentiating various functions of an attitude, we hereby identify possible trajectories linking NIH with such biased individual behavior and decision making. We apply this understanding to develop an extensive agenda for future research.
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rAcademy of Management Perspectives
2015, Vol. 29, No. 2, 193217.
http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amp.2013.0091
ARTICLES
OPENING THE BLACK BOX OF NOT INVENTED HERE:
ATTITUDES, DECISION BIASES, AND BEHAVIORAL
CONSEQUENCES
DAVID ANTONS
RWTH Aachen University
FRANK T. PILLER
RWTH Aachen University
The not-invented-here syndrome (NIH) describes a negative attitude toward knowl-
edge (ideas, technologies) derived from an external source. Even though it is one of the
most cited constructs in the literature on knowledge transfer, previous research has
not provided a clear understanding of the antecedents, underlying attitudes, and be-
havioral consequences of NIH. The objective of our paper is to open the black box of
NIH by providing an in-depth analysis of this frequently mentioned yet rarely un-
derstood phenomenon. Building on recent research in psychology and an extensive
review of the management literature on NIH, we first develop a framework of different
sources classifying knowledge as external.We then discuss how a perception as
externalmay trigger the rejection of this knowledge, even if it is useful for the
organization. Differentiating various functions of an attitude, we hereby identify
possible trajectories linking NIH with such biased individual behavior and decision
making. We apply this understanding to develop an extensive agenda for future
research.
Staying innovative over time is a major challenge
for organizations and individuals alike. Since
Marchs (1991) seminal work, management litera-
ture has discussed the managerial trade-off of
exploiting routines and core capabilities while
simultaneously exploring innovative products and
business opportunities. However, core capabilities
are frequently a major source of rigidities when
it comes to innovation and change (Benner &
Tushman, 2003; Leonard-Barton, 1992). To become
better at exploration, studies unanimously emphasize
the need for an organization to successfully transfer
and absorb outside knowledge as a potent driver of
innovative output, firm performance, and economic
welfare (e.g., Laursen & Salter, 2006; Lichtenthaler,
2011).
Previous research has demonstrated that this is
not an easy task. Organizational inertia and struc-
tural rigidities challenge the transfer and use of
outside knowledge on the level of the organization
(Lane, Koka, & Pathak, 2006; Zahra & George, 2002).
In most instances, however, knowledge is actually
transferred, absorbed, and put into practice on an
individual level (Lichtenthaler, 2011; Reagans &
McEvily, 2003; Rogan & Mors, 2014). Here, previous
research has identified multiple heuristic concepts
influencing and biasing knowledge use and de-
cision making on the individual level, including
representativeness, anchoring, and availability
(Kahneman & Tversky, 1979);escalatingcommitment
We thank Ruth Jiang for her assistance in the literature
coding process. Our colleague Iring Koch provided great
advice on the psychological background of NIH. We also
benefited from valuable comments by Torsten-Oliver
Salge, Dirk L ¨
uttgens, and Robin Kleer on earlier drafts of
this manuscript. We acknowledge financial support for
this study by the DFG (German Research Foundation)
within the German Excellence Initiative.
193
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(Staw, 1981; Zardkoohi, 2004); and an endowment
effect (Plott & Zeiler, 2005). Other literature, especially
research in social psychology, has shown that in
situations characterized by interactions and ex-
changes with external entities or external objects,
the attitudes of individuals often affect decision
making and lead to biased behavior (Ajzen, 2001;
Bohner & Wä
nke, 2002).
When it comes to absorbing external knowledge
for innovation, the most frequently mentioned bias
influencing individual decision making is the not-
invented-here syndrome (NIH). It can be best con-
ceived of as a profound attitude-based bias toward
knowledge (ideas, technologies) derived from a source
or contextual background that is considered outside
or external from the perspective of the individual
(Katz & Allen, 1982; Kostova & Roth, 2002). There are
ample examples of contexts in which knowledge is
perceived as external, including a developer talking
to a team member who has a different disciplinary
background, a colleague from a neighboring department
suggesting an idea, an external technology provider
offering a technical solution, or a customer from a dif-
ferent cultural tradition. Research on NIH postulates
that individuals have a generally negative attitude
toward such knowledge, ideas, and technologies of
external origin (Burcharth, Knudsen, & Søndergaard,
2014; Laursen & Salter, 2006). When this predisposition
holds irrespective of the objective value of an external
input, an individual is said to be affected by the NIH
syndrome. For an innovating organization, this bias
becomes economically damaging when knowledge is
rejected or underutilized despite being of considerable
potential value (Kathoefer & Leker, 2012; Lichtenthaler
&Ernst,2006).
When NIH hinders the reception of knowledge,
negative consequences are likely to occur. There are
many accounts of closely knit in-groups within
companies that consider their insiderknowledge
to be superior to outside knowledge. Apple Inc. had
such a mindset in the early 1990s, when managers
rejected good external ideas and lived in what was
widely known as their own reality distortion field
(Burrows, 2000, p. 102, quoted in Menon and
Pfeffer, 2003, p. 497). A striking instance of this kind
of resistance was evidenced at Kodak over the past
two decades, when the companys refusal to address
the rise of digital over film technology led to its
decline and eventual bankruptcy (Lucas & Goh,
2009). When Kodak developed the first digital
camera in 1975, the product was dropped for fear
that it would threaten Kodaks photographic film
business. Later, in the 1990s, Kodaks top leadership
developed a strong vision of a digital company, but
this strategy was scarcely implemented in its busi-
ness units because Kodak had a strong focus on in-
ternal development tracks. As a result, most of the
people responsible for implementing the digital
strategy had a background in filmaphysical,chem-
ical product dominated by the old Kodak. Employees
knowledgeable about digital photography tended to be
new employees hired to create change, but traditional
managers were not quick to respond to the input and
suggestions offered by their new colleagues.
Surprisingly, despite the abundance of anecdotal
evidence, as reflected by the examples of Apple and
Kodak, and the popularity of the term NIH in the
management literature, this phenomenon has not
been addressed by a corresponding body of research
(Agrawal, Cockburn, & Rosell, 2010; Kathoefer &
Leker, 2012; Laursen & Salter, 2006; Lichtenthaler &
Ernst, 2006). NIH has chiefly been studied in the
context of innovation management, but it has also
been featured in works on marketing (Franke, Keinz,
& Steger, 2009; Hauser, Tellis, & Griffin, 2006),
strategy (Fey & Furu, 2008; Laursen & Salter, 2006),
and human resource management (McKinlay &
Starkey, 1992). However, in most of this literature
the underlying mechanisms of NIH are described in
aratheranecdotalfashion(Agrawaletal.,2010;
Kathoefer & Leker, 2012; Laursen & Salter, 2006). A
systematic conceptualization, operationalization,
and investigation of NIH is still missing.
The objective of our paper is to open the black box
of NIH by providing an in-depth analysis of this
frequently mentioned yet little understood phe-
nomenon. In doing so, we unearth the range of
meanings assigned to the concept in extant research
and identify those areas of literature that draw most
strongly on the NIH concept. We review the causes
and consequences of these barriers to external
knowledge in the context of innovation and change.
Complementing the vast literature on organizational
inertia and tendencies to innovate in the known, we
examine the NIH syndrome as rooted in individual
attitudes.
Importantly, NIH differs from organizational cul-
ture (Klein & Sorra, 1996). While organizational
culture may act as a contextual factor influencing
the behavioral consequences of NIH, it is not the
main source of NIH. As we will show, with reference
to a large body of research in social psychology, NIH
is caused by individual attitudes and their functions.
Grounded in this extensive review we develop
a definition of NIH. We offer a deeper understanding
of the underlying causes of NIH, drawing on several
194 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
theoretical perspectives with a clear focus on those
attitudes known to shape individual thinking and
decision making. We integrate these different per-
spectives into a novel conceptual process model of
NIH. Developing the existing research on NIH, we
explicitly differentiate between behavior and the
reasons (attitudes) that cause behavioral responses
such as underutilization and rejection of external
knowledge. We conclude by identifying theoretical
and managerial implications as well as opportunities
for future research.
CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND
NIH has two key features. First, it emerges as a re-
sult of boundaries that knowledge has to bridge when
it is transferred between two entities. It therefore
derives from some form of knowledge externality.
Second, it involves an irrational devaluation or even
rejection of this external knowledge by an individual,
even though this knowledge might be valuable from
the perspective of the organization. In the following
sections, we will look at each feature in turn.
Sources of Knowledge Externality
Following Shannon and Weavers (1964) basic
model, knowledge is transmitted from a source to
a recipient (individuals, teams, or organizations). In
this model, externality can be conceptualized in two
different ways: externality with regard to the (dis-
ciplinary) context of the knowledge, and externality
with regard to the source from which the knowledge
originates. The latter can be differentiated between
organizational (functional)boundariestheknowledge
has to cross and the spatial (geographic) distance be-
tween the knowledge source and its receiver. This
differentiation results in the structure of externality
presented in Figure 1.
With regard to the source of knowledge,organiza-
tional boundaries can determine whether knowledge is
perceived to be external by an individual. Within an
organization, knowledge can be transferred intra-
functionally between persons from different teams
(e.g., Bstieler & Hemmert, 2010) and inter-functionally
between employees working for different functions,
departments, or divisions ofanorganization(e.g.,
Song & Swink, 2009). Knowledge transferred between
different organizations or institutions (e.g., Cassiman
&Veugelers,2006;Laursen&Salter, 2006) is regularly
categorized as external knowledge. Furthermore, both
internal and external organizational boundaries
might coincide with a growing spatial distance
between the knowledge source and the receiver
(e.g., Salomo, Keinschmidt, & De Brentani, 2010;
Song, Asakawa, & Chu, 2011).
In Figure 1, only the field labeled Type 1rep-
resents a knowledge transfer we conceptualize
as entirely internaland hence not potentially
FIGURE 1
Dimensions of Externality of Knowledge Leading to NIH
2015 195Antons and Piller
influenced by NIH. An example would be a team
member transferring knowledge to another team
member located in the same geographical location,
with both colleagues having the same educational
background and where this background itself is the
same as the discipline from which the knowledge is
derived. NIH may occur when one of the team
members is positioned in another area of the firm
(Type 2), even when she actually belongs to the
same organizational unit. NIH may also occur when
knowledge has to cross hierarchical boundaries, as
illustrated by Type 3. A famous example here is
Morrisons (1966) account of NIH in the U.S. Navy.
When a junior officer pioneered an innovation that
dramatically increased the accuracy of firing guns
from ships, senior naval officers rejected it for many
decades, finally capitulating only when President
Theodore Roosevelt intervened.
Types 3 and 4 (as well as Types 7 and 8) describe
the form of NIH that looms largest in the literature:
knowledge that is rejected as it stems from a different
function or an external organizational entity (firm).
This was the mindset at Apple Inc.in the early 1990s,
when managers were suspicious of strong external
ideas (Burrows, 2000). For example, long after mar-
ket feedback and usability research indicated that the
optimum number of buttons for a computer mouse
was two, Apple refused to modify its thinking and
maintained its one-button mouse design (Lidwell,
Holden, & Butler, 2010).
Resistance toward external knowledge is typically
assumed to increase with growing spatial distance.
Before the U.S. distributor Timex introduced the
successful British-made Sinclair Spectrum home
computer as the Timex 2068 in the United States in
1983, the distributor felt compelled to redesign the
product for the U.S. market. The changes increased
the computers capability, but the cost was a bland
design and numerous software incompatibilities
(fewer than 10% of all commercial software titles
could run on it), resulting in the products failure
(Lidwell et al., 2010).
From a contextual perspective, knowledge can be
perceived as external when it originates from an-
other scientific or technical domain of expertise
(Types 5, 6, 7, and 8 in Figure 1). Traditionally,
scientific research is structured along disciplines.
This division of scientific labor is mainly due to the
reduction in complexity for the individual when
concentrating on one specific aspect of the research
problem at hand (Pierce, 1991). Disciplinary di-
vision helps to organize knowledge and leads to
specialization, but also results in disconnected
knowledge silos (Bitner & Brown, 2008). To address
complex problems, however, research often needs
to integrate knowledge from different domains
within interdisciplinary projects (Jacobs & Frickel,
2009).
Studies of knowledge transfer across disciplines
reveal notable barriers to communication (Biehl,
Kim, & Wade, 2006). Consider an example repre-
senting Type 5 in Figure 1. NIH often occurs between
two team members in the same location but with
different disciplinary backgrounds. A lead engineer
with a background in electrical engineering may re-
ject a contribution based on knowledge stemming
from mechanical engineering. In history, even out-
standing scientists following different scientific
ideologies (Type 8 in Figure 1) have rejected each
others ideas and theories (Nickerson, 1998). For
example, Leibniz and Huygens rejected Newtons
concept of universal gravity due to their distinct
scientific philosophies, even calling the concept
occult (Lakatos, 1978).
NIH as an Attitude-Based Bias
Next to knowledge externality, the second ele-
ment constituting NIH is an irrational rejection of
knowledge in a case where this knowledge would
actually be valuable to the organization. As we will
discuss below, this can be the result of either a de-
liberate decision or an unconscious, almost auto-
matic rejection. NIH often originates from differing
perceptions of rationality at the organizational and
individual levels. The person making the decision
may act entirely rationally from an individual per-
spective, but this could be suboptimal for the orga-
nization. It is important to note, though, that
rejecting external knowledge is not necessarily irra-
tional. Rejecting external ideas or technologies when
their expected value is outweighed by costsfor
example, by transaction costs incurred when ac-
quiring the knowledge but also by the cost of the
knowledge stock itself (e.g., licensing fees)is fully
rational. However, from the viewpoint of the organi-
zation, this evaluation should be rational (i.e., follow
the principle of value maximization).
We thus need to distinguish NIH from an objec-
tively rational rejection of external knowledge due
to its lack of value or its high cost, but also from
situations where external knowledge is rejected
because actors just decide randomly (Sadler-Smith
& Shefy, 2004) or engage in intended sabotage
(Harbring & Irlenbusch, 2011). Neither of these latter
scenarios constitutes NIH in our understanding.
196 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
NIH often resembles a principal-agent setting in
which individuals have leeway when it comes to
decision making and therefore act opportunistically
(Eisenhardt, 1989). In this context, we have to dis-
tinguish between an irrational, but conscious and
deliberate, rejection and a reflexive, unconscious
rejection of external knowledge.
Consider the example of product improvement
ideas suggested by customers. While some of these
ideas may be technically infeasible or irrelevant
for the target market (and hence it is fully rational
to reject them), some ideas may indeed provide
an opportunity to improve product performance.
Nonetheless, an individual developer may still re-
ject even the most promising ideas to avoid adding
a new burden to his or her workload, or simply be-
cause he or she characterizes the wording and
language in which the idea has been presented as
unprofessionalor nerdy.Similarly, Gupta and
Govindarajan (2000) highlighted the fact that man-
agers sometimes try to demote the power of peer
units in an organization by portraying these units
knowledge stocks as less distinct and valuable to
protect their own decision power.
These examples are all characterized by an in-
dividual attempt to defend self-perception, rank, or
status. According to research in social psychology,
these defense mechanisms are major functions of
individual attitudes (Ajzen, 2001; Bohner & Wä
nke,
2002). In general, attitudes are seen as a key de-
terminant in influencing social life and human
interaction (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). Attitudes are
defined as relatively time-consistent individual
evaluations of an object of thought, including phys-
ical artifacts, people, groups, and ideas (Bohner &
Dickel, 2011). Research on discrimination (Agerstr¨
om
& Rooth, 2011; Toosi, Ambady, Babbitt, & Sommers,
2012) has indicated that attitudes are often formed
toward persons or groups that are perceived as ex-
ternal or foreign. In the context of NIH, however,
the attitude object is the stock of knowledge that is
perceived as external.
In accordance with prior research on NIH (Clagett,
1967; Kathoefer & Leker, 2012; Katz & Allen, 1982;
Lichtenthaler & Ernst, 2006), we define NIH as
a bias triggered by the negatively shaped attitude
of an individual toward knowledge that has to
cross a contextual (disciplinary), spatial, or organi-
zational (functional) boundary, resulting in either
its suboptimal utilization or its rejection as be-
havioral consequences of this attitude bias. This
understanding is also implied by calling NIH
asyndrome.In a decision-making context, the
bias causes either a depreciation of the utility of
the outside knowledge or an overestimation of the
respective costs in obtaining it.1For an innovating
organization, this bias becomes economically
negative when knowledge useful for the organi-
zation or its innovation behavior is rejected or
underutilized.
LITERATURE REVIEW
To assess the current state of research, we con-
ducted a detailed review of 647 publications re-
ferring to the NIH syndrome.2We followed the
approach of Lane et al. (2006), classifying these
articles as either focused or non-focused according
to the centrality of NIH to the papers core topic. An
NIH-focused paper examines the NIH syndrome
itself (i.e., seeks to explain its occurrence, ante-
cedents, or consequences). Those papers analyzing
NIH as a phenomenon in its own right were classi-
fied into three categories according to their research
design: (1) qualitative research using case studies or
ethnographic approaches, (2) quantitative research
1Consider the example of a product developer rejecting
promising ideas from customers, who in most cases for-
mulate their ideas using non-technical, colloquial lan-
guage. Literature on decision making suggests that the
rejection of these external ideas by the product developer
results from either a deliberate or an automatic mode of
decision making (Chen & Chaiken, 1999; Fazio, 1990;
Strack, Werth, & Deutsch, 2006). The deliberate mode is
characterized as analytic, reflective, and inclusive of
context, and is slow in processing. The automatic ap-
proach is seen as emotional, impulsive, and heuristic, and
is characterized as conducive to swift decisions. When-
ever decisions are led by heuristics, they might be biased
(Gigerenzer & Gaissmaier, 2011). NIH may often be placed
into this second, more impulsive mode of decision-
making. In our example, the rejection of an idea because
of its colloquial language can be seen as such an auto-
matic, impulsive decision. But NIH can also be the result
of a reflective, systematic rejection. Consider an incentive
system of a firm honoring only its ownideas. In such
a case, not mentioning a good idea from customers out of
fear that superiors may criticize the employee for not
having the idea earlier can be seen as a deliberate decision
of the product developer.
2To identify these papers, we searched for relevant
studies in the literature databases ABI/INFORM, Business
Source Premier, EconLit, Web of Science, and Science-
Direct. We used keywords such as not-invented-here,”“not-
invented-here-syndrome,”“NIH,and NIH-syndrometo
scan the most informative text available in each database
(headline, abstract, full text).
2015 197Antons and Piller
using surveys, secondary databases, or experiments,
and (3) conceptual or theory-building articles.
In contrast, a non-focused paper uses NIH to ei-
ther explain an empirical result or to derive hy-
potheses in another context. For these non-focused
papers taking NIH for granted, we differentiated
four minor uses of NIH: (1) NIH is used in the in-
troduction to address a specific topic, (2) NIH is
instrumental for the model, hypothesis, or propo-
sition development, (3) the results are discussed or
justified using NIH, or (4) the papers outlook and
limitations refer to NIH.
The results of this literature review (described in
Table 1) provide several unexpected insights. The
analysis of the centrality of NIH to the papers core
topic reveals that 97.9% (660 papers) use NIH as
a minor construct only. More than half of these
articles (393 articles, 59.5%) use the construct during
the development of the research model (hypotheses
or propositions). Another 169 papers (25.6%) draw
on NIH to discuss results: in quantitative studies of-
ten to justify unsupported hypotheses; in qualitative
studies mostly to explain routines, decision-making
processes, or behavioral effects. Less frequently but
still often, NIH is used merely to introduce a study
and address a research question (77 papers, 11.7%)
or to discuss limitations or further research (73 arti-
cles, 11.1%). Conversely, only 14 of the publications
identified (2%) explicitly investigate NIH or seek to
deepen our understanding of it.
We further analyzed the references cited for NIH
in every paper. Interestingly, in the majority of
papers, NIH is used as an established, concrete term,
not as an acronym for a loosely defined concept
whose content might be up for analysis or discus-
sion. About 65% of all papers do not cite any liter-
ature at all when referring to NIH. Surprisingly, the
citations in the remaining 237 papers (35.9%) point
to 67 different articles. The paper by Katz and Allen
(1982) is by far the most central for the NIH litera-
ture stream, as it receives the most citations (139).
The mean number of citations an article gets is
3.5 (standard deviation 16.7); the median is 1. Six
further references received citations above this
mean (specifically Allen, 1977; Cohen & Levinthal,
1990; Hayes & Clark, 1985; Jain & Triandis, 1990;
Lichtenthaler & Ernst, 2006; and Szulanski, 1996).
Interestingly, from these seven papers, only Katz
and Allen (1982) and Lichtenthaler and Ernst (2006)
were classified as NIH focusedin our analysis,
meaning that many of the most cited papers do not
investigate NIH on its own.
Our analysis of the NIH literature indicates that
NIH has become a taken-for-granted construct (Green,
2004). As Agrawal et al. (2010) put it, evidence for
NIH is primarily anecdotal. NIH is frequently cited
but appears in what might be called a ritualway,
with little to no discussion of the phenomenon itself.
In cases where such ritual citations occur, the per-
ception of having tested assumptions and generated
knowledge about the construct is often overestimated
(Lane et al., 2006). Interestingly, NIH is one of the
few academic concepts that are widely known and
accepted in managerial practice. Any manager
asked about problems of knowledge transfer will
most likely mention not-invented-here.
Despite this broad exposure and common un-
derstanding of the concept, only 14 studies focused
on NIH in detail (refer to Appendix 1 for a detailed
overview of the NIH papers). These papers un-
covered a variety of antecedents to NIH, including
established routines (Kathoefer & Leker, 2012; Katz
&Allen,1982),socialidentitiesofgroupsandorgani-
zations (Agrawal et al., 2010; Allen, Katz, Grady, &
Slavin, 1988; Mehrwald, 1999), the human tendency
to strive for security and stability (Kathoefer & Leker,
TABLE 1
Analysis of the Application of the NIH Construct in Management Literature
Centrality of NIH
Research Design
Qualitative
research
Quantitative
research
Conceptual
research
Sum
(percentage)
focused 2 10 2 14 (2%)
non-focused 187 169 304 660 (98%)
Number of non-focused papers using
NIH in/for ...*
introduction and motivation 29 20 28 77 (11.7%)
hypotheses, model, or proposition
development
107 105 181 393 (59.5%)
result and discussion 48 46 75 169 (25.6%)
outlook and limitations 22 17 34 73 (11.1%)
* A paper may fall into two or more of these classifications.
198 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
2012), poorly balanced incentive systems (Mehrwald,
1999), culture (e.g., individualism vs. collectivism)
(Albach, Pay, & Rojas, 1991; Pay, 1989), and resistance
to change (Clagett, 1967). As for its consequences, NIH
may lead to incorrect evaluations of ideas and tech-
nologies (Agrawal et al., 2010; Burcharth et al., 2014;
Kathoefer & Leker, 2012; Mehrwald, 1999), impeded
implementation and increased development costs
(Clagett, 1967; Pay, 1989), project failure (Clagett,
1967; Herzog & Leker, 2010; Kathoefer & Leker, 2012),
and a decline in firm performance (Allen et al., 1988;
Katz & Allen, 1982).
Prior research has used diverse measures to ex-
plain NIH. In most studies, NIH is not analyzed di-
rectly. These studies interpret specific effects as
potential NIH outcomes and use them as a behav-
ioral indicator of the underlying NIH attitude. The
most cited NIH study, by Katz and Allen (1982),
measured the frequency of communication with
external persons or institutions over time. A decline
in communication is interpreted as resulting from
an increasing tendency to reject external knowl-
edge. In a recent study by Agrawal et al. (2010), NIH
was operationalized through self-citation rates in
a patent analysis. The authors found that large and
geographically isolated firms tend to cite them-
selves more frequently. Mehrwald (1999) was first
to develop a dedicated operationalization, pro-
posing a multidimensional concept to measure NIH
that also takes into account the theoretical defini-
tion of NIH as an attitude.
Some recent studies have used single factors and
items of this operationalization to measure NIH
(Herzog & Leker, 2010; Kathoefer, 2012; Kathoefer &
Leker, 2012). Recently, Burcharth et al. (2014) ex-
tended the attempts to measure NIH by suggesting
a third-person approach. In this study, R&D man-
agers were asked to report on the average attitude
of employees toward external knowledge acquisi-
tion. This average measure, however, neglects in-
dividual attitude differences and single behavioral
consequences. Hence, one can argue that this mea-
sure reflects more of a team climate than individual
attitudes.
In conclusion, our literature review confirms that
the existence of NIH is widely acknowledged.
However, only a limited number of studies have
identified and discussed potential antecedents and
consequences of NIH. A few quantitative studies
have started to take the original conceptualization
and definition as an attitude into account and
developed tools to actually measure NIH in an or-
ganization. Due to the rather limited number of
evidence-based studies, the existing literature still
lacks confirmation of the attitudinal consequences
and negative outcomes that it postulates.
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES FOR EXPLAINING
THE BIAS UNDERLYING NIH
NIH has been defined as an attitude-based bias
against external knowledge. To enhance our un-
derstanding of this phenomenon, this section will
discuss different ways in which this attitude may
lead to biases in decision making. In general, atti-
tudes are seen as a main determinant influencing
social life and human interaction (Eagly & Chaiken,
1993) through an evaluation typically encapsulating
attribute dimensions such as goodbad, pleasant
unpleasant, and likabledislikable (Ajzen, 2001).
According to most attitude theorists, attitudes are
seen as having five major functions (Ajzen, 2001;
Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). For an individual, an atti-
tude helps to foster and maintain self-worth and self-
concept (ego-defensive function)throughexpressing,
activating, and affirming a personscentralvalues
(value-expressive function). Hence, attitudes are part of
apersonssocialidentity(social-adjustive function).
Furthermore, attitudes provide individuals with a sim-
ple structure and thus help to organize the complex
and ambiguous environment (knowledge function). In
agivensituation,theperceptionofanattitude-objectas
good or bad helps individuals to evaluate the objects
use when it comes to an approach or avoidance de-
cision (utilitarian function) (Bohner & Wä
nke, 2002;
Pratkanis & Greenwald, 1989). Interestingly, identi-
cal attitudes may fulfill different functions for dif-
ferent people and even more than one function for
a single individual. This implies that an attitude may
be multifunctional (Bohner & Wä
nke, 2002).
The different functions of attitudes influence the
extent to which individuals (consciously) process
attitude-consistent or -inconsistent information
(Petty & Wegener, 1998). Individuals often seek and
select information that confirms and supports their
personal beliefs and attitudes (Munro & Ditto, 1997).
At the individual level, attitudes guide thinking,
decisions, and behavior in a heuristic way and are
likely to lead to biased decision making (Ajzen,
2001). At the social level, intergroup exchange, co-
operation, and conflicts are often influenced and
induced through attitudes toward both ones own
group and external groups (Bohner & Wä
nke, 2002).
In the next section, we will apply the five functions
of an attitude to elaborate several theoretical per-
spectives encompassing an attitude as a main factor
2015 199Antons and Piller
driving individual thinking and decision making in
the context of NIH, referring to the different levels of
externality of knowledge as the origin of NIH.
The Ego-Defensive Function of NIH
Gupta and Govindarajan (2000) argued that an
ego-defense mechanism may underlie NIH. Indi-
viduals might block information proving or sug-
gesting that others are more competent than they
perceive themselves to be. Typically, ego-defense
mechanisms used to shelter an individuals self-
concept include denial, projection, repression, and
rejection (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). In a corporate
context, managers and developers often define and
express their self-identity through their expertise
in a specific domain (Menon, Thompson, & Choi,
2006). This feeling of possession can lead to a kind
of psychological ownershipof this specific prob-
lem or knowledge domain, thus fostering a sense of
responsibility for solving the problem in question
(Pierce, Kostova, & Dirks, 2001). Challenging this
self-perception might result in impediments, failure
to share information, sabotage, or other deviant be-
havior, and may lead to stress, frustration, and other
psychological effects (Pierce et al., 2001).
Concerning knowledge transfer, Baer and Brown
(2012) have shown that perceiving psychological
ownership of ideas leads to the rejection of sug-
gestions by others in this area. Along with psy-
chological ownership, ego defense might also link
with the self-serving bias (Kelley, 1967). Research
has broadly discussed an individuals tendency to
overestimate his or her own contributions and attri-
bute failure to external factors that influence
decisions or tasks (Cucina, Martin, Vasilopoulos,
& Thibodeaux, 2012; Nelson & Beggan, 2004). H ¨
olzl,
Kirchler, and Rodler (2002) have shown that such
self-serving behavior is rooted in an individuals
attitude.
Applied to the context of knowledge transfer,
showing a tendency to NIH may be triggered by the
ego-defensive function of the underlying attitude. In
an R&D context, researchers will often have been
hired because of their unique expertise in a specific
domain. Expert tracks, the notion of innovation
champions,or an award culture recognizing expert
achievements (such as Procter & Gambles famed
Victor Mills Society) foster the construction of
pockets of expertise held by one individual. Such
individuals may demonstrate NIH when confronted
with external knowledge in their particular domains
to defend their expert status.
The Value-Expressive Function of NIH
Attitudes are also a means of expressing in-
dividual values and ideologies (Bohner & Wä
nke,
2002). The value-expressive (also ego-expressive)
function of an attitude helps people to satisfy the
need to clarify and confirm their self-concepts,
showing what kind of individuals they are and what
they stand for (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). According to
Klein and Sorra (1996), employees are more willing
to accept, adopt, and implement innovations when
they are consistent with both individual and orga-
nizational values. For example, a conventionally
educated pharmacologist or medical doctor may
deny effects reported as the result of homeopathic
remedies, viewing them as a placebo rather than
a medicinal effect. Parents have been shown to de-
cide not to vaccinate their children because of the
potential for death as a rare side effect of the vac-
cine, even when the probability that the vaccination
will cause death is much lower than the probability
of dying from the disease (Ritov & Baron, 1990). The
value function of the parentsattitude (the desire to
protect their childrenslives)biasestherationalde-
cision toward making the wrong choice. It also is very
likely that an environmentalist will reject product
ideas that contain potentially toxic materials or re-
quire air-polluting production processes, even if the
products could increase customer welfare. Thus,
drawing self-esteem from following a specific ideol-
ogy or value and having related attitudes is expected
to lead to a strong rejection of other ideologies,
schools of thought, or values as embodied in external
knowledge inputs.
The Social-Adjustive Function of NIH
Attitudes serving the social-adjustive function
influence how a person relates to others. These
attitudes can facilitate and maintain social rela-
tionships, but at the same time they can also disrupt
and violate them (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). Hence,
attitudes influence the development of a social
identity (Bohner & Wä
nke, 2002). Social identity
theory postulates that part of a persons self-concept
is derived from membership in social groups (Tajfel
&Turner,1979).Apositivesocial identity thus helps to
satisfy the need for positive self-esteem (Hewstone,
Rubin, & Willis, 2002). While the ego-defensive func-
tion of an attitude helps to shelter the individual part of
the self-concept, the social-adjustive function can be
seen as protecting, and also fostering, the group-
related part of the self-concept. Such an attitude, for
200 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
example, can lead to degrading others as a means of
elevating ones individual self-concept, conforming
to group norms, or justifying existing structures and
power differentials (Bohner & Wä
nke, 2002). Re-
search has shown that the social identity of a group
and induced group cohesion can enhance the per-
formance of a team (Scott, 1997). Exchange and co-
operation between teams and groups having different
social identities, in contrast, can be impeded (Ashforth
&Mael,1989;Skilton&Dooley,2010).
Social identity theory has frequently been used
to explain why NIH exists and which consequences
it might entail. Research studying multinational
organizations has argued that spatially distributed
teams develop separate social identities that hamper
the exchange of knowledge and intra-organizational
cooperation, as strong local social identities lead to
the rejection of external knowledge even if it comes
from members of the same organization (e.g., Chang,
Gong, & Peng, 2012; Haas, 2010; Kostova, 1999).
Moreover, a strong team identity might also foster
inter-organizational NIH (Katz & Allen, 1982; Menon &
Pfeffer, 2003). Other studies have discussed country-
specific cultures and resulting identities (Michailova &
Husted, 2003) to explain NIH occurring between
organizations.
Moreover, the social identity of an organization as
a whole (corporate identity) may lead to the re-
jection of external knowledge (Agrawal et al., 2010;
Husted & Michailova, 2002; McEvily, Perrone, &
Zaheer, 2003). This pattern has, for example, re-
cently been shown in German companies where
astrongGerman engineering prideprevents the
absorption of relevant external solutions in an R&D
context (L ¨
uttgens, Antons, Pollok, & Piller, 2014).
Similarly, Kodaks failure to alter its major tech-
nology from film to digital photography is seen as
partially a result of employeesrigid mindset to
preserve the status quo, thereby avoiding any dis-
turbance of the social harmony within the R&D team
through external innovation (Lucas & Goh, 2009).
The Knowledge Function of NIH
Attitudes provide individuals with a simple
structure to process knowledge. This function is one
of the most prominently discussed functions of an
attitude in the literature. Attitudes help an individual
to simplify and organize the perception and evalua-
tion of information in a situation characterized by
complexity and ambiguity. The knowledge function
supports individuals in attaining a meaningful, sys-
temized, and stable perspective (Eagly & Chaiken,
1993). Striving for cognitive consistency, people fil-
ter out new information that challenges their atti-
tudes and adopt information that is in line with
their attitudes (Ajzen, 2001; Bohner & Wä
nke, 2002).
This attitude-induced selective information processing
affects attention, encoding, exposure, judgment, elab-
oration, and information storage (Bohner & Wä
nke,
2002; Eagly & Chaiken, 1993).
In the context of NIH, the knowledge function of an
attitude can lead to a confirmation bias (Nickerson,
1998). It has been shown that scholars reviewing
articles tend to prefer submissions that do not deviate
from their specific expertise or the common pre-
vailing wisdom (Hergovich, Schott, & Burger, 2010).
As Nickerson (1998) showed with a notable collec-
tion of examples, famous scientists including Gali-
leo, Kelvin, Davy, Huygens, and Leibniz declined
ideas and theories offered by up-and-coming scien-
tific contemporaries (all of whom later also became
famous for their contributions), and instead contin-
ued to rely on their professional knowledge and
perception of their fields. In organizations, product
managers and developers tend to rely on their initial
positive assessment of the market potential for
a novel product, even when contrary information
later becomes available (Biyalogorsky, Boulding, &
Staelin, 2006). Similarly, it has been reported that
decision makers often reject developments by in-
novative users (von Hippel, 1988), even though these
so-called lead users often address product use sit-
uations that are different than those envisioned by
management. The literature on lead users contains
countless examples of such rejections. Von Hippel
(2005), for instance, offered the invention of the
correction fluid Liquid Paper and the CamelBak (a
hydration device for athletes) as examples of inven-
tions that were repeatedly rejected by established
vendors in their respective industries.3
The Utilitarian Function of NIH
People generally seek to gain rewards and avoid
punishments. Attitudes fulfilling the utilitarian
3A recent example of this effect is the initial rejection of
the idea by an early Twitter user to use the hashtag symbol
(#) to channel tweets about a specific event. The Twitter
development team considered the hashtag to be too
nerdyand not appealing to a wider audience, and hence
did not promote the idea (Zak, 2013). Twitter changed its
policy only after users continued to use the symbol. To-
day, hashtags are one of the most ubiquitous means of
structuring communication in social media.
2015 201Antons and Piller
function allow an individual to secure positive
outcomes and prevent negative ones (Bohner &
Dickel, 2011; Demski & McGlynn, 1999). In general
terms, utilitarian attitudes exemplify individual
self-interests (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). In organi-
zations, employees are often incentivized to de-
velop new ideas or advance technological solutions
leading to a patent application (Im, Montoya, &
Workman, 2013). Such incentive and reward sys-
tems, however, may have unintended effects on
creativity and ideation (Koch & Leitner, 2008).
Consider, for example, developers or product man-
agers who are rewarded for the number of ideas or
development projects generated. In such a situation,
external ideas may be rejected due to the sheer
utilitarian function of NIH (Argote, McEvily, &
Reagans, 2003; Hauser et al., 2006; Menon & Pfeffer,
2003).
Besides monetary rewards, creating onesown
ideas may also simply be more prestigious than
adapting an external idea, as it fosters intrinsic
motivation via peer recognition or social status in
an organization (Husted & Michailova, 2002).
Hence, the utilitarian function of an attitude can
lead to an ownership bias or endowment effect in
idea generation and evaluation, where employees
are more likely to promote their own ideas over
external ideas (Onarheim & Christensen, 2012).
This behavior has been revealed in the context
of contests in which customers submit ideas to
improve a firms offerings, for example. Even
the winning ideas submitted to these contests are
often later rejected by the hosting company, as its
managers have no incentive to adopt them in their
own projects.
Connecting the Functions
Table 2 summarizes the set of functions de-
veloped above, explaining how attitudes trigger the
rejection of external knowledge. Complementing
the differentiation of three distinct sources of
knowledge externality introduced earlier (organi-
zational, spatial, and contextual boundaries), this
table can serve as a framework for a more finely
grained description and investigation of the various
instances of NIH.
Obviously, the five functions of an attitude may
strongly interact. Consider again Morrisons (1966)
description of NIH in the U.S. Navy. An innovation
in ammunition technology suggested by a junior
officer was rejected by senior officers in Wash-
ington, illustrating an instance where knowledge
had to cross hierarchical boundaries. It was only
after President Theodore Roosevelt personally in-
tervened that the new technology was implemented
Navy-wide. According to Morrison (1966), the main
reason for rejecting the new technology was that it
criticized the gun machinery that was originally
designed by the senior officers to whom the junior
officer was sending it. Various attitude functions
triggered a deliberate rejection of the innovation.
The senior officers had been part of the de-
velopment of the established systems and the un-
derlying routines, leading to their perception that
they were the major experts on this technology.
TABLE 2
Behavioral Trajectories of Attitudinal Functions
NIH attitude
function Characterization
Triggered heuristics
and related theories Related literature (selected)
Ego-defensive
function
Defining, expressing, and defending
self-identity
Psychological ownership Baer & Brown (2012); Gupta &
Govindarajan (2000)Self-serving bias
Value-expressive
function
Clarifying and confirming self-
concepts and values
Omission bias Ritov & Baron (1990)
Social-adjustive
function
Facilitating and maintaining social
relationships
Social identity theory Agrawal, Cockburn, & Rosell (2010);
Chang, Gong, & Peng (2012); Haas
(2010); Skilton & Dooley (2010)
Knowledge
function
Providing simple structures to
organize information processing
Cognitive consistency and selective
information processing
Biyalogorsky et al. (2006); Hergovich
et al. (2010); Nickerson (1998)
Confirmation bias
Utilitarian
function
Securing positive outcomes and
preventing negative ones
Ownership bias Argote, McEvily, & Reagans (2003);
Hauser (1998); Hauser, Tellis, &
Griffin (2006); Koch & Leitner
(2008); Onarheim & Christensen
(2012)
Endowment effect
202 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
They developed strong psychological ownership of
the existing (internal) solution, fostered by the ego-
defensive function of NIH. In addition, their per-
sonal careers and their future development were
dependent on their own expertise. Thus, the re-
jection might have also been caused by the uti-
litarian attitude function to justify their existing
positions and benefit their future careers. At the
same time, an omission bias may have led to an
unconscious rejection of the idea that a mechanical
apparatus could replace human intelligence in
precise gun aiming (value-expressive function). The
rejection may also have been caused by selective
processing of information (knowledge function)
for example, focusing on instances of failure of the
new technology while suppressing all information
demonstrating its higher accuracy.
One may argue that this is an old example in a hi-
erarchical organization unable to change. However,
recent research in the context of open innovation
demonstrates similar behavior in organizations that
have implemented a dedicated program to source
external knowledge. Sieg, Wallin, and von Krogh
(2010) and L¨
uttgens et al. (2014) observed European
and U.S. manufacturers that actively implemented
an open innovation program by contracting an in-
termediary (such as NineSigma, InnoCentive, and
Yet2) to solve an existing internal technical challenge
(Afuah & Tucci, 2012; Jeppesen & Lakhani, 2010).
These open innovation initiatives were all sponsored
by the chief technology officers of the respective
organizations, providing a situation in which the
firm had established a formal procedure to acquire
external knowledge for a given innovation problem.
Still, both studies found a strong rejection of external
solutions in all of the observed open innovation
projects. In the study by L ¨
uttgens et al. (2014), not
one of the firms acquired an external solution or
engaged in further cooperation with a successful
solution provider.
Our framework helps to better make sense of this
resistance by opening the black boxof NIH. The
external solution knowledge from the solution pro-
vider had to cross spatial and contextual boundaries
(Types 4 and 8 in the structure of externality pre-
sented in Figure 1). In particular, the access to so-
lution knowledge from different industries and
disciplinary domains has been demonstrated as one
of the main objectives of open innovation (Jeppesen
& Lakhani, 2010). This was also the motivation of
those organizations studied by L ¨
uttgens et al. (2014)
and Sieg et al. (2010). Hence, when it came to
integrating the external solutions, team members
identified several reasons for not using the external
knowledge input. Consider the following quotes
from interviews documented in L ¨
uttgens et al.
(2014, pp. 352, 353, 356): I cant tell you what its
like to stand in front of conservative managers
whose leadership has not been able to solve the
problem for years, and then you suggest solving the
problem, but now with the help of external parties,
and R&D says: Why should we find an external
solution when we can do it ourselves? If we do this,
were really only showing how bad we are.’” These
quotes illustrate how the ego-defensive function
interacts with the utilitarian function (e.g., endow-
ment effect for internally developed solutions).
Other interviewees reported that this rejection was
shared broadly among members of the R&D teams.
This illustrates the social-adjustive function facili-
tating an internal bonding of different R&D mem-
bers, unanimously rejecting the winning external
proposals.
These examples demonstrate that a negative atti-
tude toward external knowledge is often triggered by
various attitude functions, which may show a rein-
forcing effect. While it is difficult to differentiate
these effects empirically with the methods currently
available, we believe that a theoretically grounded
distinction of the five functions provides a better
understanding of the underlying causes of NIH to
inform future research. Figure 2 introduces a process
model that allows us to open the black box of NIH.
Our model consists of three elements: the different
sources of knowledge externalities constituting the
decision setting, the inner structure of NIH based on
the attitude functions, and the resulting behavioral
effects and performance impacts. Extending the
arguments in the existing literature on NIH, we ex-
plicitly differentiate between behavior and the rea-
sons (attitudes) that cause behavioral responses, such
as the underutilization or rejection of external knowl-
edge. The individual decisionregardingtheutilization
of knowledge originating from contexts beyond disci-
plinary, organizational, andspatialboundariesmaybe
affected by attitudes towardthisexternalknowledge.
These attitudes and their functions can trigger different
heuristics that may mediate an attitudesinfluenceon
decision making. When the decision is biased nega-
tively against utilization, we call this situation an
NIH biascausing either a depreciation of the utility
of the outside knowledge or an overestimation of the
respective costs in obtaining it.
Extending the current discussion, our model also
indicates that different contextual factors may in-
fluence the attitudebehavior relationship and its
2015 203Antons and Piller
performance impact. These factors include the or-
ganizational culture (Herzog & Leker, 2010; Kostova,
1999), the incentive system in place (Im et al.,
2013), the commitment of top management (Fey
& Furu, 2008), and other factors influencing the
absorptive capacity of an organization (Zahra &
FIGURE 2
Conceptual Model of NIH
knowledge
knowledge exchange
, e.g.
, e.g.
204 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
George, 2002). While previous literature has de-
scribed the performance impact of these contextual
factors in general, their influence on the link be-
tween an underlying attitude and a behavioral
response has not been the subject of research.
However, as our examples and the theoretical dis-
cussion have shown, different attitudes tend to
trigger different heuristics, which also demand dif-
ferent approaches to deal with them. Based on our
conceptual model and its underlying theoretical
considerations, we identify a number of theoretical
and managerial implications, which hopefully will
serve as starting points stimulating further research.
These are presented in the following section.
AVENUES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH ON NIH
Our literature review revealed that there is sur-
prisingly little focused research on NIH. In the fol-
lowing, we apply the insights gained from both
reviewing existing NIH literature and identifying
the five attitude functions to develop promising
avenues for future research on NIH. That said, we do
not intend to develop a comprehensive list of re-
search opportunities. Instead, we identify five broad
issues that appear particularly critical for extending
our understanding of NIH: (1) developing refined
measurement instruments for NIH, (2) studying the
behavioral consequences of an NIH attitude, (3)
comparing NIH across contexts, (4) developing and
testing institutional remedies to overcome NIH,
and (5) shifting the perspective on NIH from the
individual to a group setting.
Measurement of NIH
We need to develop refined measurement
instruments for NIH in organizations. A validated
instrument is crucial not only for investigating the
extent of NIH in an organizational unit, but also for
developing countermeasures and testing their ef-
fect. Very few studies have tried to provide such an
NIH measure. In many instances, observed effects
attributed to NIH, such as deprecating behaviors,
are actually measured instead of NIH attitudes
per se (Agrawal et al., 2010; Lichtenthaler & Ernst,
2006). The few papers (e.g., Herzog & Leker, 2010;
Kathoefer & Leker, 2012) that provide a dedicated
psychometric NIH measure focusing on the un-
derlying attitude refer to Mehrwald (1999), who, to
our knowledge, provided the first direct measure of
an NIH attitude relying on multiple Likert scale
items. Applications of this measure have focused on
demonstrating the existence of NIH rather than
seeking to identify the antecedents and consequences
of the phenomenon (Mehrwald, 1999). From a theo-
retical perspective, these measures can be criticized
for neglecting established theoretical findings from
psychology, including most notably the threefold
component structure of an attitude (Bohner & Wä
nke,
2002; Eagly & Chaiken, 1993; Rosenberg & Hovland,
1960).
More important, the current measures of NIH in
the management literature use direct items within
a standardized questionnaire containing questions
about the utilization of external knowledge, collab-
oration with external partners, and trust in in-
ternally and externally developed technology
(Kathoefer & Leker, 2012; Mehrwald, 1999). How-
ever, methodological literature in general (Bryman,
2008)and psychological literature on attitude
measurement in particular (Ajzen, 2001; Fazio &
Olson, 2003)has criticized such an explicit way of
investigating an individual attitude. Directly asking
people about their attitudes can lead to response
biases such as a social desirability response set. The
more sensitive the specific attitude domain is, the
greater the likelihood that motivational issues will
occur, leading to a concealment of real attitudes
(Fazio & Olson, 2003; Uhlmann et al., 2012). As with
questions about racism or sexual orientation in
a workplace environment, we believe that directly
measuring NIH will be biased by social desirability.
In an area of open innovation, accepting external
knowledge and ideas is proposed as desirable, and
hence respondents may not be willing to reveal their
real attitudes. In addition, an attitude such as NIH
can lead to unconscious, almost automatic behav-
ior, even in situations when an individual would
rationally perceive herself as open and professional.
To overcome these shortcomings, research in
psychology has developed an abundance of so-
called indirect or implicit attitude measures (Fazio
& Olson, 2003; Nosek, Hawkins, & Frazier, 2011;
Uhlmann et al., 2012). Applying these measures to
NIH will have the potential to broaden the un-
derstanding of the underlying attitude but also to
improve and validate direct attitude measures. In-
direct attitude measurement techniques minimize
both the individual awareness of the measured
constructs and the ability to control and regulate
responses. In most cases, nonreactive measures
such as reaction times, picture or word classi-
fications, and sentence completion are used. Ap-
plying such measures holds great promise for
research on NIH where social desirability might
2015 205Antons and Piller
occur due to the aforementioned attitude functions
and related effects.
Consequences of NIH
We need research to provide robust evidence of
the expected causal link between the NIH attitude
and suboptimal decision making (see Figure 2).
While many authors argue that NIH leads to project
failure or underperformance, this causal claim has
rarely been tested, not least due to the lack of ap-
propriate measurement instruments. Further re-
search should take the functions of an attitude
developed in the previous section into account to
understand how NIH influences behavior and
induces a general rejection of external knowledge.
Various research designs appear promising in this
regard.
In line with literature on innovation barriers
(Klein & Sorra, 1996), we see a strong opportunity in
using lab experiments to focus on the attitude
behavior relationship and to investigate how the
attitude effect is potentially mediated through other
biases. Furthermore, larger, more conventional sur-
veys could be a good means of evaluating possible
moderators of these relationships and investigating
the proposed trajectories linking attitudes and be-
havioral responses. We also see strong potential in
applying qualitative case studies to observe man-
agers and their decision making in a firm context.
Qualitative research could also investigate the
origin of ideas and technological breakthroughs
to better understand those factors that trigger re-
sistance toward, or conversely adoption of, the un-
derlying knowledge stocks in a particular setting.
Research needs to apply the full range of methodo-
logical tools to understand the complex phenome-
non of NIH and to differentiate the various behavioral
consequences of an NIH attitude in different organi-
zational settings.
Findings from such research could also help to
solve a persistent theoretical and empirical puzzle
in the open innovation literature (Gesing, Antons,
Piening, Rese, & Salge, 2015). Research drawing on
absorptive capacity theory (Cohen & Levinthal,
1990; Lane et al., 2006; Zahra & George, 2002) has
argued that internal R&D capabilities are pre-
requisites for attracting competent collaboration
partners (Dahlander & Gann, 2010; Grimpe & Kaiser,
2010), resulting in complementarity of internal and
external R&D. Other authors assume a substitution
effect of external R&D collaboration, perceiving it as
questioning the legitimacy of internal R&D and thus
leading to resistance of R&D staff (Laursen & Salter,
2006). Empirical research provides support for both
complementarity (Cassiman & Veugelers, 2006;
Grimpe & Kaiser, 2010) and substitution effects
(Hess & Rothaermel, 2011; Laursen & Salter, 2006).
Developing NIH measures might help to solve this
puzzle by supplementing existing measures of ab-
sorptive capacity by instruments to evaluate NIH to
investigate their opposing effects on open innovation
performance.
Contexts of NIH
After establishing a valid measurement instru-
ment for NIH attitude and its consequences, NIH
needs to be examined in different contexts. NIH was
originally described as a phenomenon that arose
from a collaborative innovation project (Clagett,
1967; Katz & Allen, 1982). Later, the idea of NIH was
applied beyond innovation management, covering
the entire domain of intra- or inter-organizational
knowledge transfer (Szulanski, 1996). As discussed,
NIH may occur along three boundaries: organiza-
tional, spatial, and contextual. Its original concep-
tualization by Clagett (1967) was in the context of
knowledge crossing disciplinary boundaries. How-
ever, in most of the existing literature, NIH has been
applied only to explain resistance toward knowl-
edge from an external sourcefor example, crossing
organizational boundaries between firms (Laursen &
Salter, 2006) or spatial boundaries between teams of
amultinationalcorporationlocatedindifferentgeo-
graphical regions and cultures (Gupta & Govindarajan,
2000; Kostova & Roth, 2002).
We see great opportunities for future research that
also takes into account the content (discipline) of
the knowledge being transferred. For instance, in-
terdisciplinary teams and knowledge exchange have
been shown to positively influence innovativeness
and innovation performance (Talke, Salomo, & Rost,
2010). However, this effect diminishes with in-
creasing cognitive distance, following an inverted-U
shape (Wuyts, Colombo, Dutta, & Nooteboom,
2005). Future research should investigate whether
this decrease could be explained by an increase
in negative NIH attitudes resulting from the
cognitive distance between different knowledge
domains.
Countermeasures for NIH
Researchers need to identify and evaluate explicit
countermeasures to overcome NIH. The literature
206 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
has proposed various remedies, such as rotating
team members on a project basis, integrating em-
ployees into decision making, restructuring teams
and departments, gaining experience with external
knowledge, and establishing adequate incentive
systems (Kathoefer & Leker, 2012; Katz & Allen,
1982; Lichtenthaler & Ernst, 2006). However, the
effectiveness of these approaches has not yet been
evaluated, not least due to the lack of appropriate
measures.
We see two different types of mechanisms for
overcoming NIH. Changing someones attitude is
one way to reduce NIHcreating an attitude that
allows an individual to overcome intuitive re-
sistance to external knowledge. Research on per-
suasion from social psychology views attitude
change as the result of better information processing
(Bohner & Wä
nke, 2002). Several approaches exist
to induce such processing, including conditioning
individuals through exposure to information;
persuading them via socially imparted or incentive-
motivated experience; and inducing positive, emo-
tional, or behavioral experiences (Bohner & Wä
nke,
2002; Crano & Prislin, 2006; Eagly & Chaiken, 1993;
Wood, 2000). These countermeasures are illustrated
in Figure 2 as contextual factors shaping individual
decision making. Specific means include informing
team members about the causes, costs, and remedies
of NIH, as recognition is the first step to prevention
and recovery (Lidwell et al., 2010). Moreover, en-
couraging decision makers to interact with a wider
community of external actors on conferences or in
cross-industry work groups may prevent a negative
attitude toward external knowledge. Future research
should study the effectiveness of these measures,
in connection with different sources of knowledge
externality.
An alternative, perhaps less obvious way to over-
come NIH is to prevent the attitude from influencing
behavior (instead of changing the attitude). As
described above, attitudes might act as information-
processing heuristics biasing decisions. Recent liter-
ature has suggested so-called de-biasing techniques,
which help individuals to avoid heuristics during
decision making (Milkman, Chugh, & Bazerman,
2009). These techniques include analogical reasoning,
the use of foreign language to communicate during
a knowledge exchange, and perspective-taking ap-
proaches (Galinsky & Moskowitz, 2000; Keysar,
Hayakawa, & An, 2012; Milkman et al., 2009).
Analyzing a bias to understand the reason behind
it is at the very core of the de-biasing approaches.
Consider the example of a cross-functional team
including employees from marketing, R&D, and
production. When marketing offers ideas based on
their customer-related knowledge that might en-
hance the functionality of a new product, R&D
employees might reject these ideas because of NIH-
related ownership effects. To overcome this re-
jection, the project leader could ask the developers
to take a marketing perspective and try to un-
derstand why the team proposed these ideas. This
understanding makes it easier to develop a strategy
to undermine the biasing mechanism (Milkman
et al., 2009). The different functions of an NIH atti-
tude, as discussed before, are a good starting point to
analyze the respective de-biasing mechanisms. As-
suming that in the given example ownership effects
arise due to the ego-defensive attitude function,
future research should validate that perspective-
taking is indeed a reasonable countermeasure.
Levels of Analysis
Further research about NIH might wish to shift its
perspective from the individual to the group level.
Multilevel research distinguishes two fundamental
processes describing how distinct organizational
levels interact (Kozlowski, Chao, Grand, Braun, &
Kuljanin, 2013): bottom-up and top-down. Bottom-
up emergence resides in lower-level entities such as
the individual, and individual effects and habits rise
to upper levels. Over time, these emergent phe-
nomena then manifest themselves at higher and
more collective levelsfor instance, in the form of
a specific organizational culture. Top-down effects
include higher-level phenomena that shape, affect,
or constrain lower-level phenomena. These effects
include creating an open-minded corporate culture,
implementing incentive systems, and trying out
different methods of personal leadership (Hunter,
Perry, & Currall, 2011).
The phenomenon of emergence has largely been
neglected in quantitative research in the context of
knowledge transfer in general and NIH in particular,
but also has been sparsely covered in qualitative
studies (Kozlowski et al., 2013). We suggest that
studying organizations and individuals over time is
crucial to understanding the evolution of NIH. A
possible means of doing so would be to study groups
where specific individuals show NIH tendencies.
This leads to a number of interesting questions:
Does NIH then also emerge at the group level? What
moderates this process? Is it, for example, immanent
personal traits or capabilities (such as leadership)
of individuals demonstrating NIH tendencies?
2015 207Antons and Piller
Research answering these and other multilevel and
longitudinal questions will foster our understanding
of NIH and multilevel interaction effects.
IMPLICATIONS AND OUTLOOK
The NIH syndrome is one of the most frequently
mentioned phenomena in the current era of open
innovation and interdisciplinary knowledge ex-
change. As shown in our literature review, however,
there is a rather fuzzy understanding of NIH and its
antecedents, underlying attitudes, and behavioral
consequences. The objective of our paper has been
to provide a much-needed definition and concep-
tual understanding, grounded in recent research in
psychology and an extensive review of the man-
agement literature on NIH. We developed a frame-
work of different sources classifying knowledge as
externalthat might trigger a general, attitude-
based rejection of such knowledge inputs irre-
spective of their specific value. Differentiating
various functions of an attitude, we identified pos-
sible trajectories linking NIH with individual be-
havior and decision making.
We then applied this understanding to develop an
extensive agenda for future research. A core element
of this agenda consists of more appropriate instru-
ments to measure the NIH attitude of an individual
without inducing a bias of social-desirable answer-
ing behavior. Transferring recent research in social
psychology on implicit measurements may be one
fruitful avenue in this regard. This will allow further
research to develop measures and then test organi-
zational interventions to face NIH. In so doing, we
complement the literature on organizational mea-
sures and structural responses to foster innovation
at the organizational level by adding an individual-
level perspective on the rigidity of knowledge
transfer for innovation. Here our model is in line
with recent research (Rogan & Mors, 2014) on the
micro-foundations of organizational ambidexterity
that studies how broadly managers search for exter-
nal information to explain innovation performance.
We have defined NIH as a negative attitude. In-
tuitively, individuals will differ in the extent to
which they hold this attitude. Some research has
even demonstrated a positive bias toward external
knowledge (Laden, 1996; Menon & Pfeffer, 2003).
While we have followed the dominant conception
of NIH in the literature as a negative attitude, future
research may broaden the debate on attitudinal
effects on knowledge transfer and investigate
positive biases stimulated by our theorizing. For
example, Laden (1996) has described a kind of buy-in
syndrome leading to an irrational preference for
external input in a decision context.
NIH has been discussed predominantly in the
context of innovation management and inter-
organizational knowledge transfer. That said, two
additional academic discourses may benefit from
our research. Given that NIH is defined as the neg-
ative part of a mental attitude toward external
knowledge, we expect scholars interested in attitu-
dinal effects or decision-making biases in organiza-
tional settings to benefit from a better understanding
of NIH and its measurement. This encompasses, for
example, studies on discrimination effects in work-
place environments. Up till now, such research has
looked into attitude effects toward persons or groups
based on race (Toosi et al., 2012), gender (Elkins,
Phillips, & Konopaske, 2002), and age (Wood,
Wilkinson, & Harcourt, 2008) influencing hiring
(Agerstr¨
om & Rooth, 2011), salary negotiation (Jarell
& Stanley, 2004), and promotion (Lyness & Heilman,
2006). Here, introducing NIH as an attitude-based
effect toward knowledge into the discrimination lit-
erature might stimulate and broaden the debate on
discrimination in the workplace, especially with
regard to inventive activities.
Similarly, scholars of decision making are in-
terested in understanding effects and heuristics that
bias individual decisions because of bounded ratio-
nality (Simon, 1955). This literature covers a broad
variety of psychological tendencies and processes
influencing individual decisions, such as the recog-
nition heuristic (Goldstein & Gigerenzer, 2002), the
representativeness heuristic (Choliz, 2010; Read &
Grushka-Cockayne, 2011), and anchoring effects
(Englich, Mussweiler, & Strack, 2006). Introducing
(attitudinal) phenomena discussed in social psy-
chology to this field of research might deepen the
understanding of these heuristics and their ante-
cedents and behavioral trajectories. In specific sit-
uations attitudes might trigger heuristic decision
making while fulfilling the functions discussed above
for an individual.
We also see important implications for manage-
ment practice. Given that NIH is a phenomenon that
is widely known (and bemoaned) by managers, we
believe that a better understanding of NIH also
contributes to better practice. First, we recommend
that managers should acknowledge that NIH
existsprobably even in their organizations. How-
ever, it would be mistaken to take NIH for granted
and use it as an easy excuse when open innovation
initiatives fail or external ideas are not used in
208 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
a project. Procter & Gambles famous expression of
proudly developed elsewhere(Elmquist, Fredberg,
& Ollila, 2009) provides a cultural indicator of
preferred employee behavior.
Such behavior, however, will materialize only if
these claims are also supplemented by correspond-
ing incentives. Some of the organizations we studied
have started to build such explicit incentives to
overcome NIH, such as an award culture recognizing
successful transfer of external knowledge. Other
organizations have started to engage outsiders in
both the strategy and the evaluation stages of the
development process to ensure fresh perspectives
and new thinking. In one organization, we observed
ademocratizedevaluation process where at least
30 managers from different units and cultural back-
grounds are involved in idea evaluation, counter-
balancing the individual NIH tendencies of a focused
decision board. Clearly, there is a compelling case for
future research studying the effectiveness and effi-
ciency of these and other approaches to finally find
a cure for the NIH syndrome.
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2015 213Antons and Piller
APPENDIX
An overview of focused research investigating not invented here(NIH)
Study
Research
design Sample Definition of NIH Operationalization
Examined
boundary
Central
results Need for further research
Clagett, 1967 Qualitative 8 case studies NIH has been used among
technical organizations to
describe the attitude often
spoken of as if it were
adiseaseoftechnical
organizations who resist
adoption of an innovation
proposed from a source
outside of the
organization.(p. II)
Organizational
boundary, inter-
functional and
interdisciplinary
knowledge
transfer
First evidence for
existence of NIH
Approaches to persuade
technical experts
Katz & Allen,
1982
Quantitative N 5345
employees
from R&D
working in 50
different R&D
teams in a U.S.
company
NIH syndrome is defined
as the tendency of
a project group of stable
composition to believe it
possesses a monopoly of
knowledge of its field,
which leads it to reject
new ideas from outsiders
to the likely detriment of
its performance.(p. 7)
Decrease in rate of
communication
between
a project group
and external
actors
Organizational
boundary, actors
external to team
from inside and
outside own
company
Team tenure
results in
a decline of
communication
and use of
communication
tools and thus
project
performance
Group effects,
moderating effects of
management impact
Allen et al.,
1988
Quantitative N 52000
individuals
from 181 R&D
teams
Referring to Katz & Allen,
1982
Project
performance
decline due to
team tenure
Organizational
boundary
Project and
functional
managers are
central
individuals who
may reduce NIH
Albach et al.,
1991; Pay,
1989, 1995
Qualitative
and
quantitative
research as
well as
simulation
N5300
German, U.S.,
and Japanese
firms
Skepticism toward external
results; referring to Katz
& Allen, 1982
Open questions in
survey;
simulation study
uses parameters
to model effect of
NIH on
development
time
Organizational and
spatial boundary
NIH has greater
impact in U.S.-
based than in
German firms,
and less impact
in Japan than in
Western culture
Mehrwald,
1999
Quantitative N 551 R&D
managers and
N589
developers
employed at
53 German
firms
A negative, invalid,
generalizing and rigid
attitude of individuals
and groups respectively
toward external
technology that leads to
suboptimal usage of
external technology.
New scale
development to
measure NIH of
managers and
developers
Organizational
boundary
Negative
correlation
between NIH and
effort to integrate
external
knowledge;
however,
employees show
Better conceptualization
and operationalization
of NIH construct; need
for larger sample sizes;
application of
theoretical and
methodological
knowledge from social
psychology
214 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
APPENDIX
(Continued)
Study
Research
design Sample Definition of NIH Operationalization
Examined
boundary
Central
results Need for further research
(p. 50, translated by the
authors)
heterogeneous
NIH tendencies
Lichtenthaler
& Ernst,
2006
Conceptional ... a negative attitude to
knowledge that
originates from a source
outside the own
institution.(p. 368),
referring to Clagett, 1967;
Katz & Allen, 1982; and
Mehrwald, 1999
———Large-scale empirical
studies focusing on the
syndrome
Agrawal et al.,
2010
Patent analysis 72 U.S. regions
and 264,078
patents
Referring to Katz & Allen,
1982
Degree of patent
self-citation
Organizational and
spatial boundary
Large and
geographically
isolated firms
cite own patents
more frequently,
and those patents
receive fewer
total citations
Hussinger &
Wastyn,
2011
Quantitative N 5905 German
manufacturing
companies
The not-invented-here
(NIH) syndrome refers
to internal resistance
against external
knowledge.(p. 1),
referring to Clagett, 1967;
Katz & Allen, 1982;
Lichtenthaler & Ernst,
2006
Internal resistance
to innovation
and knowledge
acquisition
Organizational
boundary
Internal resistance
to knowledge
acquisition and
collaboration
with competitors
exists
Project- and team-level
studies to investigate
whether
complementary or
substitutive knowledge
gets rejected
Herzog &
Leker, 2010
Quantitative N 546 business
units of
a German
chemical
company
Referring to Mehrwald,
1999
One of scales
proposed by
Mehrwald, 1999
Organizational
boundary
Business units with
an open
innovation
strategy show
fewer NIH
tendencies
Kathoefer &
Leker, 2012
Quantitative N 566 Austrian
and N 5170
German
professors in
physics and
engineering
Referring to Lichtenthaler
& Ernst, 2006
Four factors using
10 items
Organizational
boundary
Both applied and
scientific
researchers show
NIH tendencies;
basic researchers
show fewer
effects;
collaborative
projects reduce
likelihood of NIH
Focus on different
attitudinal components
and antecedents of
individual attitude
development
2015 215Antons and Piller
APPENDIX
(Continued)
Study
Research
design Sample Definition of NIH Operationalization
Examined
boundary
Central
results Need for further research
Kathoefer,
2012
Quantitative N 5477 German
professors in
biology,
physics, and
chemistry
The Not-Invented-Here
Syndrome refers to
a systematic negative
attitude of an individual
towards external
knowledge.(p. 76)
Operationalization
using three
scales, two of
them according
to Mehrwald,
1999
Contextual and
organizational
boundary
NIH exists in
academia and is
the result of
opinions of
colleagues,
group pride,
frequency of
external
communication,
and quality and
number of former
projects
Transferring findings to
more applied domains
like engineering
Burcharth
et al., 2014
Quantitative N 5331
manufacturing
firms from
Denmark
Referring to Katz & Allen,
1982, and Lichtenthaler
& Ernst, 2006
Third-person
approach
reporting
average
employee
attitude toward
external
knowledge on
a four-item scale
Organizational
boundary
NIH tendencies in
the R&D team
lead to less
adoption of
inbound open
innovation
activities and
creativity
training limits,
while nursing of
special talents
fosters NIH
Studies following
alongitudinal
approach and focusing
on individual instead
of team-level attitudes
216 MayAcademy of Management Perspectives
David Antons (antons@time.rwth-aachen.de) is an assis-
tant professor at the Innovation, Strategy and Organisation
Group at RWTH Aachen University, where he received
his PhD (with distinction) working in close cooperation
with the Institute of Psychology. His research examines
organizational, spatial, and disciplinary interfaces; in-
dividual decision making; learning from failure; and
(implicit) attitude measurement.
Frank Piller (piller@time.rwth-aachen.de) is a professor
of management and the head of the Technology and In-
novation Management Group at RWTH Aachen Univer-
sity. His research focuses on managing innovation
interfaces, innovation in open business models, and novel
modes of technology transfer.
2015 217Antons and Piller
... However, inter-unit knowledge transfer is never easy, even for the units in a superordinate position relative to their knowledgeexchange partners (Argote, 2013;Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000b). Studies have found, for instance, that the not-invented-here (NIH) syndrome operates in the process of knowledge transfer, indicating that units may reject external knowledge even when it can benefit their own operations (Antons & Piller, 2015;Katz & Allen, 1982). One possible reason for the reluctance to engage in knowledge exchange is that units seek distinctiveness and compete with other units in the same firm (Tsai, 2002). ...
... By showing how narcissism of executives heading the units affects organizational engagement in inter-unit knowledge transfer, we advance the understanding of why units demonstrate different motivations and patterns of inter-unit knowledge transfer activities and offer leader-level antecedents of inter-unit knowledge transfer. Second, by investigating how and when executive narcissism leads to units' reception or rejection of external knowledge, our study unpacks the environmental contingencies of the NIH syndrome in organizations (Antons & Piller, 2015;Katz & Allen, 1982). Third, we contribute to upper echelons theory by extending its insights to the business unit level, a relatively underexplored arena for upper echelons research. ...
... NIH syndrome refers to the tendency to reject knowledge derived from an external source, even if that knowledge is actually useful (Katz & Allen, 1982). Scholars have found that it is a salient factor that hinders the acceptance of external knowledge in organizations (e.g., Antons & Piller, 2015;Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000b). Even though NIH syndrome is one of the most widely cited constructs in the knowledge transfer literature, few studies have investigated its antecedents (Antons & Piller, 2015). ...
Article
What affects organizational units' propensity to learn from each other? Extending the insights of upper echelons theory to the business unit level, we examine the relationship between executive narcissism and inter‐unit knowledge transfer. We predict that the narcissism of executives heading business units is negatively related to a unit’s receptivity to knowledge emanating from other units. We further theorize that the effect of narcissism is reduced when there is high environmental complexity or dynamism as these challenging situations provide narcissists an excuse for external learning. Conversely, the effect is amplified when high perceived inter‐unit competition enhances narcissists’ distinctiveness‐seeking tendencies. Using a two‐wave, multisource survey design and collecting primary data from 118 business units of a headhunting company in China, we find strong support for hypotheses. Knowledge transfer among business units inside a multi‐unit firm is beneficial to firm performance but is never easy. Our research suggests that narcissistic executives are likely to impede inter‐unit knowledge transfer, because their sense of superiority may lead them to overestimate the value of internal knowledge and underestimate the value of external knowledge. This tendency is dampened in complex and dynamic environment which give narcissists an excuse for external learning. Conversely, this tendency is amplified by high inter‐unit competition which motivates narcissists to seek distinctiveness with other units. Thus, when seeking to promote inter‐unit knowledge transfer, firms should be aware of the crucial impact of executive narcissism, and more importantly be careful when undertaking relative performance evaluations or other similar practices which strengthen inter‐unit competition.
... Disruptive innovation studies have investigated how cognitive rigidities prevent managers from identifying disruptive technological changes that can lead incumbent firms to fail (Lettice and Thomond 2008;Vecchiato 2017;Si and Chen 2020). Researchers of not-invented-here syndrome (NIHS) studies have also regarded cognitive rigidity as a significant cause of innovators' stubborn resistance against external ideas and technologies (Antons and Piller 2015;Antons et al. 2017;Hannen et al. 2019). Despite the detrimental impacts of cognitive rigidities on corporate innovation decisions, existing literature lacks a systematic theory to explain why cognitive rigidities develop and how to cope with them. ...
... On the other hand, NIHS studies have long investigated the cognitive rigidities of innovators that create negative attitudes toward knowledge, ideas, and technology derived from external sources (Antons and Piller 2015;Antons et al. 2017;Hannen et al. 2019). Cognitive rigidities in NIHS studies focus on the function of existing internal knowledge in constructing a meaningful, systemised, and stable perspective in individuals, which makes innovators strive for cognitive consistency and filter out new information that challenges their attitudes (Antons and Piller 2015). ...
... On the other hand, NIHS studies have long investigated the cognitive rigidities of innovators that create negative attitudes toward knowledge, ideas, and technology derived from external sources (Antons and Piller 2015;Antons et al. 2017;Hannen et al. 2019). Cognitive rigidities in NIHS studies focus on the function of existing internal knowledge in constructing a meaningful, systemised, and stable perspective in individuals, which makes innovators strive for cognitive consistency and filter out new information that challenges their attitudes (Antons and Piller 2015). The negative attitude caused by NIHS can cause damage to organisational creativity and innovation as it prevents organisations from absorbing beneficial external ideas and knowledge (Antons and Piller 2015;Antons et al. 2017;Hannen et al. 2019 Although innovation studies have long been concerned about cognitive rigidities, researchers have been slow to investigate effective countermeasures, and there are few in-depth theoretical discussions and evidence (Hannen et al. 2019). ...
... We know little about which factors determine OI failures and how these happen. For instance, even for the not-invented-here syndrome (NIH), which prevents a firm from using other organisations' ideas or technologies, evidence of the impact on failure or underperformance is scarce (Antons and Piller, 2015). ...
... The NIH, which describes the individual or organisational aversion toward ideas, approaches and technologies developed outside the organisational boundaries (Katz and Allen, 1982), is frequently mentioned as an OI hampering factor. However, despite the strong theoretical arguments favouring this thesis, empirical demonstrations have been rare (Antons and Piller, 2015). ...
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Purpose Despite the multiple calls for research on the dark side of open innovation, very few studies have approached the topic so far. This study aims to analyse successful and unsuccessful open innovation projects. Design/methodology/approach This study uses thematic analysis to describe the factors determining their (un)success. The researchers interviewed 27 managers and owners in the manufacturing sector. Then, the respondents were asked to discuss one successful and one unsuccessful open innovation project to explore the differences in triggers and setbacks, focusing on the causes that determined the failures. Findings Findings show that many interviewees are reluctant to identify failure cases, which somewhat explains the paucity of studies on the topic, and others do so when the failure is recognised by a third party (such as a public institution not granting funds to the project). This study discussed how this phenomenon is linked with the paradoxical relation between innovation success and failure. It is also found that triggers and setbacks determining the project's (un)success are markedly differently based on the technological intensity of the firm. Implications for scholars and practitioners are also drawn. Originality/value This study provides a balanced view between open innovation successes and failures to offer informative recommendations to practitioners. Furthermore, it contributes to filling the scarcity of studies related to risks and failures of open innovation projects. This gap has been addressed by studying the factors that determine the success and unsuccess of an open innovation project.
... Moreover, limiting access to the platform to teachers only will improve the quality of its content, because this allows curation, adaptation to the local standards, and (if required) translation before content is used for teaching. The last dimension (called "personal issues" in the OPAL report) basically describes the "not invented here syndrome", which is a distrust of products created elsewhere [18]. This was not specifically mentioned in the present survey, but probably underlies some teachers' concerns about the quality of resources. ...
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