A reading club with a view to the future

079 Gillian Tett: The Silo Effect

The dangers of silo mentality, and how it affects organizations and individuals in a hyper-connected world.

Gillian Tett: The Silo Effect


The Silo Effect explores the phenomenon of silos, both within organizations and in society as a whole. Gillian Tett argues that silos, or the divisions between different departments, groups, or cultures, can cause misunderstandings, inefficiencies, and even failures. By examining a range of industries, from aviation to intelligence agencies, Tett shows how silos can develop and offers solutions for breaking them down.


Title: The Silo Effect

Author: Gillian Tett

Publishing year: 2015

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length in hours: 10 hours and 6 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Silos are ubiquitous: Silos exist in organizations and society at large, and they can have far-reaching consequences.
  2. Silos can be both good and bad: Silos can facilitate specialization and efficiency, but they can also hinder communication and collaboration.
  3. Silos can be broken down: Tett offers examples of successful efforts to break down silos, including creating cross-functional teams and fostering communication.
  4. Technology can exacerbate silos: Technology can create new silos or reinforce existing ones, especially in the realm of social media.
  5. Silos require ongoing attention: Breaking down silos is not a one-time fix, but a continuous effort that requires leadership and commitment.
Gillian Tett: The Silo Effect

5 funny quotes

  1. "It is not always easy to think outside the box, especially when you are boxed in by cubicles."
  2. "Once you've been around a few silos, you begin to appreciate the value of fresh air."
  3. "A silo is a terrible thing to waste."
  4. "Why did the silo cross the road? To get to the other slide."
  5. "Breaking down silos is a lot like breaking down a brick wall, except without the bricks or the wall."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The boundaries between different departments or groups can be compared to the walls of a maze. They may look solid, but they are not insurmountable, provided people know where the gaps are."
  2. "The more success an organization has, the more likely it is to become siloed, and the more that siloed behavior is likely to impede success in the future."
  3. "The rise of functional silos coincided with the rise of computerization and numerical control systems in the 1960s and 1970s."
  4. "Today, silos are as likely to be defined by algorithms and machine learning tools as they are by bricks and mortar."
  5. "The real danger of silos is not that they create inefficient organizations, but that they can destroy them."

5 dilemmas

  1. Can the benefits of silos (efficiency, specialization) be preserved while avoiding their downsides (lack of communication, stagnation)?
  2. How can organizations balance the need for stability and continuity with the need for innovation and change?
  3. What is the best way to balance the needs of individual departments with the needs of the organization as a whole?
  4. How can organizations foster diversity and avoid groupthink, while also promoting cohesion and teamwork?
  5. Can digital tools and platforms be used to break down silos and promote collaboration, or do they simply reinforce existing boundaries?

5 examples

  1. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, broke down silos by creating a customer-focused culture that required cooperation between departments.
  2. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, uses radical transparency to break down silos and encourage collaboration.
  3. General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, broke down silos between different military branches and intelligence agencies to improve communication and effectiveness.
  4. Lululemon Athletica CEO Christine Day implemented a "one team" approach that eliminated silos and encouraged cross-functional collaboration.
  5. Google's famous "20% time" policy allows employees to work on projects outside of their siloed job descriptions, fostering creativity and innovation.

Referenced books

  1. "The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail" by Clayton M. Christensen
  2. "Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World" by General Stanley McChrystal
  3. "The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization" by Peter M. Senge
  4. "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
  5. "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness" by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Share a quote

"The more success an organization has, the more likely it is to become siloed, and the more that siloed behavior is likely to impede success in the future."

Gillian Tett: The Silo Effect
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