Who Moved My Silo?

Greetings.  Silos.  Silos.  Silos.  No I'm not thinking about the kind used to store grain–though they look very beautiful as the sun goes down on a clear or slightly cloudy Iowa evening.  Instead, I'm thinking about the ones that seem to dominate our workplaces.  The ones that store departments, processes, expertise, ways of addressing problems, people, information and stereotypes that would be much more valuable if they were shared.  Yet all too often when I ask leaders to describe their organization and its culture they begin by saying that "we have too many silos and not enough collaboration or innovation."  And they say this as though it was the natural order of things.  Something that they can't do anything about– except possibly hire a consultant who specializes in silo demolition.  

I don't.  That's a much too complicated world for me to mess around with.  I'd be much more successful as a farmer, if only I could handle the long winters and the heavy equipment.  But maybe the fact that neither you nor I are experts in breaking down these organizational walls gives us a distinct advantage in figuring out how to unlock greater teamwork, genius, employee engagement and compelling value. Because here's a very simple idea that's as old as the 3,000 year-old coffee and tea houses of Mesopotamia…

Mix people up.  Don't let them sit with their like-minded departmental buddies.  Have them sit with a cross-section of colleagues from other functions and other departments.  People with other types of expertise.  People of different ages and at different levels of the organization.  People with different lengths of service and different perspectives on the best ways to get things down.  Form new "non-departments" that are made up of people from sales and marketing, customer support, operations, human resources, finance and accounting, distribution, risk management and any other groups that your company or organization has.  And have them sit and work together.  First getting to know each other.  Then sharing a bit of knowledge and information.  Then collaborating in the regular course of doing business to bring a broader set of viewpoints and insight to the small and large challenges you face.

Silos at Night

We succeed in business and in life by working closely together, not by hiding behind (and launching rockets over) the walls that divide us. Maybe its time for all of us to sit in a different place!


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Comfortable Shoes

Greetings.  I'm regularly asked how to unlock genius and innovation, and I quickly answer that the real key is a pair of comfortable shoes.  Yes, they are as close to a "silver bullet" or "magic pill" as I have ever found.  An absolutely fool proof way to transform all of our companies and organizations into veritable engines of brilliance!  And the reason is very simple.  Innovation is really all about combining our best thinking with the best ideas and insights of others–other people, other industries, other walks of life and even other points in time.  And we'll never find them by sitting on our collective bottoms.  Instead, we need to engage the world head-on with a sense of curiosity and openness to the possibilities that are all around us.  In the practices of leading businesses and organizations, the energy of bustling city streets and lively neighborhoods, the stories told and painted in great museums and local galleries, the traditions of other cultures, the creativity and power of remarkable performances or the wonder of nature in a favorite park.  Anyplace that is remarkable deserves our attention.


So next time you are trying to figure out how to deliver even greater value to your customers, or you find yourself wrestling with another important challenge or opportunity, begin by taking a walk in search of inspiration.  You'll be amazed by what you discover.

Curiosity is a gift you were born with.  Combined with a comfortable pair of shoes, it might just be your real key to business success.

Have a fun and curious weekend…