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The Silo Effect

The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

By Gillian Tett
13-minute read
Audio available
The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tett

The Silo Effect (2015) identifies the dangers of maintaining business departments or societal systems in “silos,” between which ideas die and communication flounders. Such an organization is typical in today’s business world despite its many disadvantages. These blinks show you how to restructure your organization to break down the silos for good.

  • CEOs and managers
  • HR managers or corporate coaches focused on efficiency in business
  • Anyone looking to foster more creativity in their organization

Gillian Tett is the managing editor of the Financial Times. She’s also an award-winning journalist and holds a PhD in cultural anthropology.

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The Silo Effect

The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

By Gillian Tett
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tett
Synopsis

The Silo Effect (2015) identifies the dangers of maintaining business departments or societal systems in “silos,” between which ideas die and communication flounders. Such an organization is typical in today’s business world despite its many disadvantages. These blinks show you how to restructure your organization to break down the silos for good.

Key idea 1 of 8

Silos, whether in business or in the mind, are prevalent and cause major communication problems.

A silo is more than just a physical structure. These deep, narrow columns exist metaphorically not just in social circles but also in our minds – and they are harmful for many reasons.

Silos in an organization effectively discourage people from working together. In New York City, various government departments were like silos, to the extent that even the fire department and emergency call operators – two groups that need to talk to each other – couldn’t even tune their wireless communications to the same frequency.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the time made it a top priority to better connect various departments. He also pushed for open office spaces, and ensured that the fire department, the finance department and the police investigations department shared data so that his administration could better predict the risk of fire in city-owned buildings.

While it’s certainly logical to share data and cooperate within a large organization like a city administration, it’s still a challenge. People tend to live and socialize within silos, choosing to stay within particular groups, usually made up of people who are similar to us.

We’re also encouraged to specialize as the business world becomes more complex. We value the opinions of experts, for example, even though they work with others in their fields' “silos.”

These sorts of specialized silos do have positive aspects, too. Silos help us organize our social lives, our workplaces, our economic systems and institutions, and lead to greater accountability.

But this increased accountability is a part of the problem, especially in the workplace. When teams are only accountable for their particular part of a project, they can become competitive or restrictive about data, wasting resources or worse, miscalculating risks.

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