The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

Book review by Deane Barker tags: business

This book wasn’t what I expected. It doesn’t really have much actionable in it (except a few pages in the conclusion). Instead, it’s basically a set of stories about information silos – where one person has Puzzle Piece A and another person has Puzzle Piece B, and they just can’t get both of them put together.

The stories are sometimes hard to relate back to the topic. The author goes on two long jaunts into the 2008 financial crises, and at times, the book feels like an economics textbook or history text. The stories get confusing, and I just couldn’t figure out what they had to do with the topic. Very few of the stories seem to have a direct, clear relationship to the topic.

Silos are basically the story of poor communication. Business groups don’t talk to each other, and Bad Things results. That was my prior understanding, anyway.

However, the book did enlighten me to a concept – there is an “information silo” and an “experience silo” (my phrases, not the author’s). An information silo is when two pieces of information don’t come together. An “experience silo” is when someone exists in a narrow frame of experience, and they don’t experience other things that might cause them to have different perspectives, and thus take different actions.

As I mentioned, the conclusion brings a lot of the book together, and is worth reading alone. The author is an anthropologist, and in the conclusion spends some time relating the principles of anthropology to breaking down silos. But again, the emphasis seems to be on experience silos, not information silos.

A mixed bag here. An entertaining read, but not quite what I expected.

Book Info

Gillian Tett
  • I have read this book. According to my records, I completed it on .
  • A hardcover copy of this book is currently in my home library.

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