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Not invented here

If we didn’t invent it, it didn’t need to be invented. 

That’s an expansion of the well-known “not invented here” meme, one far too common among workers’ comp insurers, TPAs, health plans and other large organizations.

We have all encountered this countless times…you can see it in the “Not Invented Here” bias visible in expressions of execs dismissing a new approach, front-line workers rolling their eyes during training, mid-level managers listing in great detail all the reasons this will never work.

I recall a session with the “business analytics” team from a very large workers’ comp insurer, set up by an exec that wanted to “get my ideas” on health care data analytics and the uses thereof…This quickly devolved into a litany of “yeah we already do that…yup tried that and it didn’t work…nope that will never work here…

Digging into a couple of these objections quickly revealed the dismissing party didn’t even try to understand the idea, how it would help them, why it was actually NOT something they’d done before.

Sure, this infects EVERY organization, but the infection is far less dangerous in those that value open discussion, seek contrary opinions, keep asking questions, and are open to learning from failure.

There’s a big push to get more young people involved in the industry.

Like many industries insurance is graying-out; unlike many, insurance is finding it hard indeed to attract the best and brightest. The “Not Invented Here” cancer is a major reason creative, innovative, bold thinkers quickly dismiss the idea of working in insurance, workers’ comp, and claims.

Not so for potential workers satisfied with doing the minimum, happy to parrot their bosses’ trite and obsolete views as they laze their way through the workweek.

The futility of this post is the organizations where NIH is most pervasive are those most blind to that infection.

What does this mean for you.

Asking painful questions is hard. It’s also key to survival.



2 thoughts on “Not invented here”

  1. Joe, your article gave me a good laugh as last week I received a return email from a Safety Executive from a recognizable work comp carrier telling me “they don’t blindly purchase a bunch of inventory”… and “as a safety professional your product does not literally engineer-out the hazard therefore I am not interested because our role in the lives of our customers is to try to help them change the behaviors and cultures at their business that can lead to reduced STFs, rather than another band-aid”.

    Meanwhile, their own safety/loss control page states they “provide innovative solutions that help make safety simpler for employers and employees alike” and the current post on their blog is about “how to fall safely”. Keep in mind, my only ask in my communication was a conversation to discuss our product and its ability to serve as a loss control tool to reduce STFs for their clients (and nothing about purchasing product or inventory). I understand and can respect the fact that some may not be interested in a product/service or it doesn’t fit in as part of their service offerings, but to your point there wasn’t even an interest in trying to understand and the response was not in line with the information I had researched prior to contacting.

    This type of response has been more the exception than the rule, but to your point creates an impediment. What concerns me more about young people not entering the insurance space or new ideas and products being introduced/received into the industry is access. Perhaps it dovetails with NIH, but with remote offices. limited access to brick-and-mortar offices, exhibit halls not well attended by attendees, and the cold communications rarely returned, it doesn’t sound all that inviting to young professionals who for the most part likely didn’t choose insurance as their first career choice and perhaps creates more of a NIH attitude/perception.

    1. Thanks for the note and example Kip.

      Your encounter is pretty common, and not surprising. At the end of the day it comes down to identifying pain and showing a solution that somehow makes the buyer want to make the purchase decision.

      Be well Joe

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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