Silos and Behavioural Risk.

We live in such a complex world that humans need some structure to manage life. The simplest way to create a sense of order is to put ideas, people, and data into separate spatial, social, and metal boxes. Specialisation and expertise usually deliver progress. Silos help us to tidy up the world, classify or arrange our lives, economies, and institutions. They encourage accountability.

Silos can also cause damage. People who are organised into specialist teams can end up fighting with each other and wasting resources. Isolated departments, functional areas, or teams of experts, may fail to communicate, and thus overlook dangerous and costly risks. Fragmentation can create information bottlenecks and stifle innovation. Silos can create tunnel vision, or mental blindness, which causes people to do stupid things.

The world is littered with examples of damage caused by silos, e.g. the great financial crash of 2008, the fall of Sony, the financial disaster of UBS, and many others.

Why does this happen?

Sociologist Bourdieu’s research revealed that human society creates thought and classification systems which people use to arrange space, people, and ideas. These cultural and mental maps are not deliberate, but arise from semiconscious instinct. These maps seem natural and inevitable to individuals. They shape how people behave and think.

The maps described not only what is publicly and overtly stated, but also what is not discussed.

We describe these mental maps of the world as Drives. The Drives help us to understand individual differences between people, and why groups who have been formed into teams to achieve organisational outcomes end up as tribes in conflict with other tribes.

Understanding behaviours and the tendency towards unhealthy silos allows us to address this difficult and often perplexing problem. The risks arising from disfunctional silos are huge, as many organisations have found, and the task is not easy. But understanding behaviours and following structured approaches provides the understanding and pathway to effective management of silos.

© 2016 Management Drives Australia