Award-winning journalist Gillian Tett “applies her anthropologist’s lens to the problem of why so many organizations still suffer from a failure to communicate. It’s a profound idea, richly analyzed” (The Wall Street Journal), about how our tendency to create functional departments—silos—hinders our work.
The Silo Effect asks a basic question: why do humans working in modern institutions collectively act in ways that sometimes seem stupid? Why do normally clever people fail to see risks and opportunities that later seem blindingly obvious? Why, as Daniel Kahnemann, the psychologist put it, are we sometimes so “blind to our own blindness”?
Gillian Tett, “a first-rate journalist and a good storyteller” (The New York Times), answers these questions by plumbing her background as an anthropologist and her experience reporting on the financial crisis in 2008. In The Silo Effect, she shares eight different tales of the silo syndrome, spanning Bloomberg’s City Hall in New York, the Bank of England in London, Cleveland Clinic hospital in Ohio, UBS bank in Switzerland, Facebook in San Francisco, Sony in Tokyo, the BlueMountain hedge fund, and the Chicago police. Some of these narratives illustrate how foolishly people can behave when they are mastered by silos. Others, however, show how institutions and individuals can master their silos instead.
“Highly intelligent, enjoyable, and enlivened by a string of vivid case studies….The Silo Effect is also genuinely important, because Tett’s prescription for curing the pathological silo-isation of business and government is refreshingly unorthodox and, in my view, convincing” (Financial Times). This is “an enjoyable call to action for better integration within organizations” (Publishers Weekly).
In the age of Twitter, smartphones, and 4G, many people think we're more connected than ever, but Tett (Fool's Gold), the U.S. managing editor for the Financial Times, says that's not necessarily so. In fact, she asserts, that popular narrative has lulled us into a false sense of security, when in fact our lives have become increasingly fragmented. Her main focus is on the downside of allowing an organization to divide into silos operational groups with too little contact and planning between them. Told through a series of silo-driven disasters, such as a segmented government bureaucracy leading to structural fires in buildings in the Bronx, "unmarriageable" bachelors in 1950s France, the downfall of Sony, failing Swiss banks, and a U.K. housing crisis, the book demonstrates the need to identify, name, and work towards integration of these silos. As to the question of how individuals can escape from silos, Tett has multiple answers: change careers; work toward cross-work within your own organization; be willing to change and learn from mistakes. Innovation and profits, she writes, depend on being willing to do something otherwise, you miss both risk and opportunity. A complex topic and lively writing make this an enjoyable call to action for better integration within organizations.