The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise, and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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In The Silo Effect, award-winning journalist Gillian Tett examines the structural development of institutions such as UBS, Sony and the Bank of England. While the world is increasingly interlinked in some senses, it remains profoundly fragmented in others.
As organisations become larger and more global than ever before, they are apt to be divided and subdivided into numerous different departments to facilitate productivity. However, there is a trap to the inevitability of these silos. The tunnel vision and tribalism that silos can lead to makes groups less innovative and can lead to disastrous mistakes.
Institutions worldwide are made up of silos operating in isolation from one another. The Silo Effect is an eye-opening account that takes a radical anthropological approach in suggesting how we might draw them back together.
Gillian Tett is assistant editor for the Financial Times, where she has worked for 15 years. In 2008 she won the British Press Award for the Financial Journalist of the Year. She often appears on programmes such as Today and Newsnight and lectures widely.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 59 minutes|
|Narrator||Eilidh L. Beaton|
|Audible.in Release Date||27 August 2015|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #15,895 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#60 in Economic Theory (Audible Books & Originals)
#146 in Organisational Behaviour
#191 in Sociology (Audible Books & Originals)
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The related point is that specialists tend not to see the big picture. They tend not to discuss with people outside their specialisation and thus remain limited in their approach to problems. Using a number of real stories, Tett shows how we can overcome the silo effect. She also relates the converse – namely with the story of the BlueMoutain Capital, a hedge fund, she shows how the fund took advantage of the silo effect to make big profits. It is a direct contrast to the massive failure of the UBS bank during the financial crisis. It is a fascinating story of how a big institution (JP Morgan) did not know what its ultra-specialist unit (known as the ‘Chief Investment Office’) was doing – it was trading in an ultra-specilised product known as IG9. Few outside the banking circle knew about IG9. Not many in JP Morgan did either. BlueMountain Capital studied the trends and discrepancies (a complicated description but lucidly explained by Tett) and took the opposite positions from JP Morgan’s CIO unit.
There is also the fascinating story about Brett Goldstein, the man who created OpenTable to help well-to-do people book restaurant seats. On 11 September 2001 Goldstein began to see a bigger picture of his own life and he ended up working with Jody Weiss, the newly appointed police superintendent of the Chicago Police. Tett shows that silos can be found in the unlikeliest places – the police forces, FBI and other intelligence agencies. Goldstein and Weiss worked to crack the silos in the Chicago Police force.
The book may seem a little longwinded because Tett takes a bit too long to tell her many stories that cover just a couple of major points, but the events are complicated and the reader’s patience will be rewarded.
This central thesis is illustrated by a series of stories. Quite a few are drawn from the author's work on the financial crisis and the moral tends to be 'if you just looked at the world on a silo basis you would not know that there was anything wrong'. But the book ranges wider. You could be the head of Sony, realise it worked on a silo basis and that this wasn't helping it, but still be unable to prevent things going wrong there as competition between silos rather than with external competitors, took hold.There are stories of overcoming silos and bringing together data from many sources to gain an understanding of the world that is not available in silos (in targeting fire risks in New York; or reducing crime in Chicago). Or in running a successful organisation like Facebook that has built in silo-avoiding processes and structures in its organisation as it has grown.
The book is easy to read, but I would have like to see more follow-through on the anthropology theme. The chapter telling me what anthropologists did I found interesting, and learned quite a lot from. But I wasn't sure I really understood how far the other stories in the book were really governed by the anthropological interests and knowledge of the author.
The stories that are told are fascinating and show excellent examples of silo busting but...
What are the best offered solutions that come out though? We have: 'bring the data together, think, and use imagination'. Fine. Also six reasonable lessons. All of which are perfectly valid – so far as they go....
But are there really no more effective possible solutions? (and if not now, then in the future?) or was a deeper inquiry into possible future solutions too much to hope for?
For instance, there seems to be a missing chapter on how the internet could help overarch silos – as it surely will at some point? The net is far more than a source of information. Its greatest effect is as a network: what was dubbed initially the 'new economy' is now the 'network economy'. So where are the comments, not so much about current social media – a lot of which will drastically change soon as it steadily becomes easier to have trustless peer-to-peer contact – but about future networking opportunities which will help shape good silos and minimize bad ones?
I was also somewhat saddened that the book seemed to be so business school and American oriented. I guess this was on publishers' advice to meet greater sales prospects.
I had hoped it would be wider in vision, and have more on other non-business areas, for example, in the field of defence.
For instance, former US General Stanley McChrystal achieved an outstanding success with a networking strategy in Iraq – as he said, "It takes a network to defeat a network" – and set an incredible precedent in the field of contemporary security issues where he demolished (US military) silos comprehensively to brilliant effect and won a highly successful military victory (I make no comment about the wider campaign strategies and political angles).
And elsewhere, in the UK (after all, the author's home country) where huge silos in the armed forces are having to be demolished also, in order to meet as effectively possible the biggest security threat of our time, in the form of ISIS.
Nor is the general reader helped by such longwinded words as ‘taxonomies’ (new to me – and hardly the way to get the message across to those who need to read the book most) nor British readers’ blood pressure helped by phrases like ‘multiple times’ (ugh!) in lieu of the simpler ‘frequently’?
For all the negatives, this book has nonetheless shone a brilliant searchlight on the whole problem of silos and how we all need to become much more aware of them in a whole range of different organisations, and so the author is to be congratulated.
But I sense this is work in progress for her and hope very much that now she has got the subject on the operating table she will continue to dissect and tell us much more about bad practices, good practices, successful solutions and less successful ones in due course, perhaps if and when she ever has more time – and if, with any luck, she ever returns to the UK. I shall look forward to further updates.
However, the penultimate chapter seems to degenerate into an lengthy and incongruous technical description of the goings-on within a financial environment. Clearly, this reflects Gillian's strong financial background, but I feel that this would benefit from some heavy editing to make it as easily-consumable as the rest of the book. It's probably of great interest if you work in the financial sector, but less relevant to those who do not.
It would be nice to have seen some specific takeaways on the easily-to-spot attributes of silo dangers, and some how-to insight on how to successfully bucket-bust.
Otherwise, a great, eye-opening book that will have you spotting siloes everywhere you look.