The Ideas of Others: Why We Really Loathe Innovation

I have recently been very troubled by the realisation that sometimes some people will not see past my peculiar name or my foreign accent and will make prejudiced assumptions about my competence in my profession or suitability for a role.

A thread I started on Twitter on this topic confirmed that, sadly, I am not only foreign educator working in the UK who feels other people’s perception of our competence is linked to factors beyond our control, such as our country of origin.

I certainly don’t wish to portray myself or anyone else as the victim of discrimination or injustice. On the contrary, I am fully aware that I am just as guilty of prejudice and bias as the next person. Which is what really concerns me.

The irrationality behind such prejudice and bias and how it determines why new ideas are adopted or discarded by us all is probably behind many of the decisions we make – if not all.

I have often joked that one of the best ways to get school leadership to adopt your idea is to craftily make it look as if it was their own. It turns out my instinct may well be right after all.

Dan Ariely explains, below, how we instinctively place more importance on our own ideas than on those of others. It’s a well-documented psychological phenomenon called the Not Invented Here Bias.

The Not Invented Here Bias suggests that your idea could be rejected simply on the grounds that it is yours, not on its actual merit. However, crucially, the bias also suggests that you may doggedly defend your own ideas over other people’s, regardless of how much better than yours they may be.

This raises the question: you may feel hard done by other people’s rejection of the innovative idea you are proposing, but how do you react to the innovative ideas of others?

This brings me back to the universality of irrationality. The sublimely funny League of Gentlemen seized upon this notion in this sketch, ridiculing us all and our reaction to innovation and the ideas of others.

It is therefore very tempting to conclude that your origin, your gender, your age, your experience or your sexuality are the most important factors that led to the rejection of your idea.

However, perhaps unsurprisingly after all, the real reason why they rejected your idea may have just been that it wasn’t theirs.

What do you think?