Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why We Reinvent The Wheel

Reinventing the wheel"As it has already been invented, and is not considered to have any operational flaws, an attempt to reinvent it would be pointless and add no value to the object, and would be a waste of time, diverting the investigator's resources from possibly more worthy goals which his or her skills could advance more substantially."  (Wikipedia)  

What happens within an organization that causes us to reinvent the wheel? 

Ignorance that the wheel already exists.  Per the definition, an individual is already aware of the wheel, yet proceeds to attempt a reinvention for no added value.  But what about the scenario where an individual thinks they are inventing the wheel, not reinventing it?  This is most prevalent in larger organizations with multiple divisions and locations.  Knowledge management is a challenge, a situation that can be improved with tools, technology, and process.  If an individual could easily research within the organization as to the existance of the wheel, they may find that they don't need to start from scratch. 

Lack of respect for others.  "Sure, their team has a prototype, but they don't know what they're doing.  I don't even have to look at it to know it won't work for our purposes.  My team will need to create it themselves."  Poor relationships and silos within the organization prevent even an initial exploration, resulting in potential duplicate of effort, and wasting time and resources. 

A culture that rewards innovation over efficiency.  Ideally, you have a balance of the two within an organization.  You may have product development focused on innovation and operations focused on efficiency.  Or, you may outlined both for one group, highlighting innovation for growth and efficiencies for maintenance.  But if all the accolades, reward, and promotion go to those who innovate, you are inadvertently shifting the balance. The resulting behavior is evident by an unwillingness to research existing solutions, to collaborate with other teams, or to share credit for work effort.  

It's clear that within an organization, "reinventing the wheel" is undesirable.  You don't reinvent that which you've already created.  But if this is something you need to address, be sure you've correctly identified the source of the problem before you implement a solution.