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Attitudes to externally organising knowledge management tasks: a review, reconsideration and extension of the NIH syndrome

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Companies may carry out all major knowledge management tasks, i.e. knowledge acquisition, accumulation and exploitation, internally and externally. Therefore, we propose the integrate-or-relate decision in knowledge accumulation as a complement to the well-known make-or-buy and keep-or-sell decisions in knowledge acquisition and exploitation. A key factor for taking adequate decisions, for building up organisational capabilities and for realising a firm's knowledge potential are unbiased attitudes to the knowledge management tasks. While past research has focused on the ‘not-invented-here’ (NIH) syndrome as a negative attitude to acquiring external knowledge, a more holistic view is adopted in the present article by extending prior research on two dimensions. Firstly, we consider all major knowledge management tasks and do not limit our analysis to knowledge acquisition. Secondly, we take into account that, apart from overly negative attitudes, excessively positive attitudes may exist. Accordingly, we identify the following six syndromes: ‘NIH’ vs. ‘buy-in’ in knowledge acquisition, ‘all-stored-here’ vs. ‘relate-out’ in knowledge accumulation and ‘only-used-here’ vs. ‘sell-out’ in knowledge exploitation. After briefly reviewing research into NIH and developing a knowledge management framework, the syndromes are defined, and possible antecedents, consequences and managerial actions are described.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: WHU–Otto Beisheim School of Management, Burgplatz 2, D-56179 Vallendar, Germany. ;, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2006


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