Silos in Your Head

There are cliche phrases and cliche ways of thinking - we’ve seen plenty of both in our nearly two decades of working with large and small organizations. One in particular has been itching my brain for a while now and I’ve finally had the time to pause, contemplate and scratch the itch.

Corporate silos.

It is so cliche it’s hard to even type out the letters to form words.

We use this phrase to refer to the structure in organizations getting in the way of big changes. Big changes are likely to impact finance, marketing, operations, human resources and management of an organization. If you’ve poked your head out into the world recently, big changes are afoot and they are impacting big corporations and brands. We have been invited to speak with many large corporations during our recent book tour for The Physics of Brand and have had some intriguing conversations. The word silos keeps coming up or is referenced as a challenge to getting things done.

The effort to get more precise about the asset value of brands and how experiences contribute has to cross organizational departments. We saw our book as a great “CFO, CIO, CMO” book club option, crossing these barriers to better understand brand value in a complex organization. Yet, an organization is designed for management of something, and that requires structure, departments, hierarchy and good silos in order to function properly.

The larger the corporation, the more of this is perceived to be required. Hence, the larger the corporation, the slower it adapts to cultural trends, makes internal change or molds to mark dynamics. This structure and the very idea of “management” is a process of taking the risk out of a venture, increasing the upside and decreasing the potential downside. Which, in its nature, is good for the long term survival of an organization.

So silos are both good and bad? Well, here’s the scratch for this itch, if you’ve had this same cliche thought. Silos are merely something we’ve imagined and are a cultural constraint in our heads. Corporations don't have silos, we do. The people who accomplish more, faster, inside corporations are those who know this fact and move through the silos in our heads. We’ve seen this with the highly successful projects that we’ve been able to participate in ourselves.

Here are some simple ways we’ve seen people break through.

1. Set up the team from the beginning to cross borders and have a diversity of mindset and corporate roles. When we have a room full of people with the same mindset, we’re in trouble. Diversity in perspective is healthy.

2. When something runs into a roadblock, ask the question: what is the real barrier? Is it a department, person or mindset? Many times it shows up looking like a person, but is really a mindset.

3. See the opportunity, not the problem. When someone is blocking an effort, see this as the opportunity to sit down with them, learn from them and find the mutually beneficial reasons to move forward. Now you’ve forged a new relationship for future potential benefits.

If you’re looking to get work done and you need a group of people who have been there before, you know how to reach us.

About The Author

Aaron Keller

I am an author, strategist, researcher, cyclist, reader and consummate entrepreneur. When an interesting idea crosses my path, I find any way we can bring it to life. Earning an MBA from the Carlson School and numerous valuable credits at the school of hard knocks, I’ll sit at a boardroom conversation with anyone. Want to talk business strategy, consumer behavior and design? Oh, it’s on.


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