“We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.” Kahneman.
Many large organizations are divided, which often fail to talk to each other- let alone collaborate. SILOS breed tribalism. But they can also go hand in hand with tunnel vision. We need specialist departments to create some structure to handle complexity. But these SILOS can also sometimes cause damage. It can create information bottlenecks and stifle innovation. Having specialty groups, or SILOS, it was believed would create more efficiency. But collaboration, and experimental brainstorming halted. Steve Jobs did not allow SILOS to form at Apple, he felt that that would have prevented the company from trying to jump into the future. Swapping ideas across different boundaries helps a company to be fruitful. In todays business culture, people should not just sit in their box and work alone. When SILOS were first formed it was to create a self-contained team so they can be quite positive and foster good qualities such as teamwork, shared experiences and friendliness. Now they have become islands and don’t communicate horizontally or even vertically. The SILOS became dangerously introverted and thus couldn’t take advantage of the changes in the world or even within a project. People don’t do what you expect, but do what you inspect. With SILOS creating people with tunnel vision within an organization, they can also create opportunities for the competition. “An expert knows all the answers if you ask the right questions,” says Levi-Strauss. Skilled experts can become so confident in their own ideas that they end up missing dangers hidden in plain sight. SILOS can make people blind to opportunity and dangerously unaware of risks. Breaking down SILOS can spark innovation in unexpected ways. Moving people around prevented different teams from hardening into inward-looking units. It is necessary to get the community to information share. It is important to promote employee collisions and collaborations. (Google, 3M, Apple do this).
We cannot entirely abolish SILOS, because we need to have specialists in the 21st century world to create order in the face of extreme complexity and an ever-swelling deluge of data. But people need to be mixed together to stop them becoming inward-looking and defensive. Creating places and programs where people from different teams can collide and bond is a good idea. When groups are competing with each other internally, they are unlikely to collaborate. One solution to this is for everybody to share more data. However, it should be stressed that you cannot combat SILOS simply by opening the data spigot and letting information spill out. What is important is to create a culture that enables everyone to interpret, and let different interpretations be heard. This is not easy to do when there are experts, when they refuse to listen to alternative ideas. We cannot live without SILOS in the modern world. But we can avoid succumbing to the problems they pose. Living in specialized SILOS might make life seem more efficient in the short term. But a world that is always divided into a specialist pattern is a place of missed opportunities.
WE CAN EITHER BE MASTERED BY OUR MENTAL AND STRUCTURAL SILOS OR WE CAN TRY TO MASTER THEM INSTEAD.
Ron Winnegrad has been a Perfumer and teacher for 46 years. As a perfumer, Ron has been able to express the world he sees through a rainbow of olfactive and emotive visions. As a teacher, Ron has helped others to see fragrance through his own multi sensorial lens.