Ever since civilised society began, we have felt the need to classify, categorise and specialise. It can make things more efficient, and help give the leaders of any organisation a sense of confidence that they have the right people focusing on the right tasks. But it can also be catastrophic, leading to tunnel vision and tribalism. Most importantly it can create a structural fog, with the full picture of where an organisation is heading hidden from view. It is incredibly widespread: the chances are these 'silos' are rife in any organisation or profession, whether your business, or your local school or hospital.
Across industries and cultures, as this brilliant and penetrating book shows, silos have the power to collapse companies and destabilise financial markets, yet they still dominate the workplace. They blind and confuse us, often making modern institutions act in risky, silly and damaging ways.
Gillian Tett has spent years covering financial markets and business, but she's also a trained anthropologist, having completed a doctorate at Cambridge University and conducted field work in Tibet and Tajikistan. She's no stranger to questioning the assumptions and practices of a culture. Those in question - financial trading desks, urban police forces, surgical teams within medical clinics, software debuggers and consumer product engineers — have practices and rituals as ordered and intricate as those of any far-flung tribe.
In The Silo Effect, she uses an anthropological lens to explore how individuals, teams and whole organisations often work in silos of thought, process and product. With examples drawn from a range of fascinating areas — the New York Fire Department and Facebook to the Bank of England and Sony — these narratives illustrate not just how foolishly people can behave when they are mastered by silos but also how the brightest institutions and individuals can master them. The Silo Effect is a sharp, visionary and inspiring work with the insight, prescriptions and power to remove our organisational blinders and transform the way we think for the better.