Illustration by MK

Silos are different departments in an organization that don’t communicate well with each other (and probably don’t want to).

Where’s My Fiction?

Ever take a tween to the library to find a book, only to get the runaround from the different departments? Maybe you start in the kids section, get sent to the teens section, then over to the ‘young adult’ section, then back to the teen section.

If you’re looking for a specific book, the last thing you want to do is run up and down the stairs to look through lots of the wrong books. As one kid told me: “I don’t want to look through all those teen romances where they’re kissing in the moonlight, and one of them’s a vampire.”

If the librarians in each section are talking to each other and working together well, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if the library has a ‘silo mentality’ – meaning they don’t care what’s happening in other departments – you could be in for trouble.

In the physical world, ‘silos’ are tall towers designed to hold goods for storage, like grain, or salt, or coal.

In the business world, the word ‘silo’ is more negative: it means a part of an organization that only communicates up and down within itself, but not at all with other parts of the organization.

As a consumer, you may experience this when calling a help line only to be told: “sorry, thats not our department, you need to call back and talk to someone else.”

The best companies build collaborative cultures without silo attitudes: by regularly rotating employees between departments, or making sure all departments have the same incentives and technologies, or getting the departments to collaborate so they know and like each other.

Businesses with siloed cultures almost always fail, because it makes for such a bad customer experience. People don’t want finger pointing or the runaround – they just want the solution to their problem.

In other words, help us find the book – we don’t care if that’s not your department!