Habitual Skepticism: Eliminate the “Not-Invented-Here” Syndrome

Leaders with habitual skepticism are not hard to spot: they suffer with the “not-invented-here” syndrome, habitually skeptical of the ideas of others.

I’ve been writing about the types, causes, and ways to defeat skepticism. What I’ve found in my coaching practice is that the best leaders know that they don’t have all the answers—no one does—and there are many people out there, perhaps under the same roof, who may be more brilliant than them.

People who follow a leader skeptical of all ideas other than their own will soon stop submitting ideas. Think of the prospects of an organization where new ideas cease. Have you noticed the flow of ideas around you drying up? It could be because you only trust your own ideas.

Al Pittampalli, author of the book, Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds To Change The World (Harper Collins, 2016), describes the evolving view the business culture has on leaders who change their minds.  At one time, it was considered a sign of weakness. Now, leaders who change their minds are often admired for adapting to volatile, threatening conditions, and staying ahead of the game. The image of pridefulness is being overshadowed by one of shrewdness.

The best way to overcome skepticism of other people’s ideas is to challenge your own. Establish an open, collaborative culture. Include brainstorming exercises throughout the organization, especially at the top:

  • Collects all ideas, without critique.
  • Use a weighted grading system to eliminate bias, and score ideas.
  • Sift out the highest scores and trust them.

When brainstorming is done right—in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere—people are drawn in, become more engaged, and best of all, the greatest ideas and strategies are found. Sometimes the oddest ideas turn out to be the best.

Accept this: with better ideas from the team, there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind away from your own ideas. In fact, it’s admirable. Shove a prideful position aside, and cleverly make the most effective use of the resources you have. Sounds much better, doesn’t it?

You’ll find that critical, constant skepticism is a debilitating element that will limit you, your staff and your organization. If you sense that a skeptical outlook has gotten the better of you, choose open mindedness and reap the rewards.

What do you think? Do you see a need to eliminate the “not-invented-here” syndrome in your organization? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.