One of the characteristics of industrial age enterprises is that they are organized around functional departments. This organizational structure results in both limited information and restricted thinking. The Silo Effect asks these basic questions: 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 psychologist Daniel Kahneman put it, are we sometimes so "blind to our own blindness"?
Gillian Tett, journalist and senior editor for the Financial 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. These are stories of failure and success.
From ideas about how to organize office spaces and lead teams of people with disparate expertise, Tett lays bare the silo effect and explains how people organize themselves, interact with each other, and imagine the world can take hold of an organization and lead from institutional blindness to 20/20 vision.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-07-06
- Reviewer: Staff
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. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Sept.)