Why I said that breaking silos can be detrimental

Following my post last week, a former colleague of a large company contacted me. He wanted to know why breaking silos without the help of a professional can be detrimental. I leave my next post about the kind of leaders our world needs for later…

To illustrate my point, I will use this simple story. Say you give a gift to your son, making him a very happy kid. Now, apply the rules that govern your home, in which you define sharing and collective sense as non-negotiable principles. And ask your son to share his new gift with his sister. Hmm, I’m pretty sure your request spoils his party a little … you might even see him resist. Or worse, oppose your request, accusing yourself of wanting to diminish his power.

Now you want the same rule of “sharing” in your business. You plan to ask your staff to work together more to improve your organizational agility.

The double-bind of cross-collaboration

With my little story, I hope it will be easier for you to see the conflicting messages. In fact, the conflict lies here between two strategies: “to be the strongest” and “to be the most humble”. Let me explain :

  • The “law of the jungle” is the first well-known strategy. It’s our automatic mode, a set of principles that puts personal interests first. “Only the fittest will survive” makes us want to grow, to have more or to build a wall to protect ourselves.
  • The “collective genius”* is the second strategy. It says that we cannot succeed alone. We can only achieve better if we are together and we can only respond to complex problems by gathering collective intelligence.

What are powerful strategies?

What are the powerful strategies to make cross-collaboration more natural? I would say, it is the right time to embrace friction since you want to promote efforts that go against human behaviour. So, like your child’s reactions, resistance or opposition will be natural. The good thing is that it is always possible to make efforts to raise the level of consciousness of your people. What you want is to encourage the transition to a less automatic mode of “collective genius”.

These are useful strategies that I’m using:

– Apply the reciprocity standard and demonstrate its benefits. By sharing more, your son invites his sister to share more. In the end, both have more power because they will be able to play with more toys!

– Develop your team players’s skills towards more trust and safety, which Lencioni summarizes best in his book “The Ideal Team Player”

– Give clear instructions and the necessary guidance. Develop a “freedom in a framework” set of rules – i.e. empowerment in a safe environment (internal copyright rules could be a first step).

Use games to put your team players in a situation where they cannot hide their behaviours. Let the culture emerge from the games to be able to hold the right conversations.

– Ensure the transferability of successful cases.

Only by bringing people together to share their knowledge can we solve the complex problems of today. Our goal as leaders or consultants is to reduce barriers and educate employees that they do not have everything to lose. On the contrary, they have everything to gain too.

man couple people woman
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com


* You will find this rule explained in different forms in our literature. For instance, I can recommend these amazing books for further reading : “Superminds”, “Collaborating with the enemy”, “Social Intelligence”, “Radical Collaboration”, “Leading Global Innovation”, “Superpowering People”, “Collaborative Genius” or “Teaming”. To name a few 🙂

One response to “Why I said that breaking silos can be detrimental”

  1. Excellent analysis. The advice
    for remedying the individual/collective dilemma is easier said than done. It depends to a large extent on organisational culture: if this rewards individual performance – still the norm in my opinion – it is in an individual’s interest to keep the toys s/he has made or acquired.

    Liked by 1 person

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