Chapter 21: Get Out of Your Silo

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”
—Walter Lippmann

Before writing this chapter, I opened my trusted Merriam-Webster, Tenth Edition, copyright 1993 and looked up the word “silo.”

The two definitions from way back then basically referred to structures: “a tall cylinder…for storing material” and “an underground structure for housing a guided missile.” There was no mention of silo as metaphor for how humans interact.

Not long after, a new definition for silo crept into the business world. It began as a description of organizational dysfunction when different departments within a company do their own thing, neglecting to communicate or coordinate with other departments. That kind of isolation—whether intentional or not—blocks communication, hinders innovation, leads to redundancies, frustrates customers and clients, and generates jealousy and animosity within an organization.

The image is stark and accurate. Even comical. You can picture a group of corporate executives bouncing around inside a hollow concrete pillar, feeling self-important but having zero awareness of anyone outside their silo. What’s more, they seemingly don’t care about their isolation and the damage being done.

That illustration leads us to the latest application of the word. This more recent understanding of silo is primarily driven by social media, and it’s not healthy. In the early days, the great online community was promoted as a way to gather in harmony, to share ideas, and to gain a better understanding of each other. That didn’t last.

It turns out the vast majority of us are now choosing to hear and listen to only those people who already believe what we believe. People in our silo read the same blogs, watch the same news commentators, and attend the same rallies. We disdainfully block out those who disagree with us. As a result, we eliminate any chance of new, helpful, or relevant ideas seeping into our concrete bunker.

As proof, just consider what happens when a stance or policy that has clear consensus in one silo somehow finds its way into an opposing silo. That sound bite, quote, clip, or meme is labeled as hate speech and goes viral to others who “think like us.” Instead of changing minds, the conflict escalates.

Ask any CEO who has become aware of silos and successfully demolished the divisive silo mentality. The fog lifts, ideas are exchanged, the self-imposed oppression ends, and the best ideas rise to the surface and can be implemented for the betterment of the entire organization. That sounds like a box worth checking for any company, society, family, or government.

EMBRACE A SILO-FREE LIFE

As you consider your own peer groups and spheres of influence, what will it take to smash the cultural silos that prevent communication, collaboration, and empathy?

LEAVE YOUR SILO

You may not be able to deconstruct all the silos, but you can leave your own. Be wise as you do so. Hold on to your established values as you venture out, and find motivation in your own foundation of faith and love. The fastest way to impact an adversary is to courageously enter their arena. Matthew 10:16 puts it this way: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

MERGE SILOS

Take the best of yours and the best of a neighboring silo. Respectfully share research and successes. Separate facts from opinions. Seek out complementary capabilities. Streamline and refine.

KNOW THINE ENEMY

Leave your silo as a scout. Determine whether the adversary in the opposing silo is actually an ally or a devotee of the enemy. Return with information that makes your organization—or your personal faith—stronger.

DOUBLECHECK YOUR OWN ASSERTIONS

Be wary if you find yourself saying, “Everyone agrees…,” or “Studies have shown…,” or “I’m one 100 percent sure that….” Those all sound like “silo speak.”

Christians need to hold tight to key tenets of the faith. The list is worth reviewing: God as omnipotent Creator. The trustworthiness of the Bible. The fact that all have sinned. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross as a free gift that paid the penalty for our sins, giving believers a home with Him in eternity. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There are other precepts, but you get the idea.

(Please note: If someone in another silo believes what you believe, they could very well be an ally, not an enemy; they are worth listening to.)

CHECKING THE BOX

As you engage with others, you should regularly find yourself thinking, I hadn’t considered that perspective before. Romans 12:16  confirms the need to listen, live, and learn with others: “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”

TO PONDER OR SHARE…

□ 1. What defines your silo? Who else is in it?
□ 2. In which of your groups might you find diverse thoughts and opinions that lead to thoughtful discussion and healthy debate?
□ 3. When are silos—perhaps temporary silos—a good thing?
□ 4. Does social media dismantle or reinforce silos?
□ 5. When is the last time you allowed one of your long-held beliefs to be challenged? Did you defend your belief without reasonable deliberation? Or did you consider changing your way of thinking?

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