Thomas Malm’s blog of 09 Feb 2013 mentioned silos and synapses, and immediately sparked off this post.
When “silo” is thrown your way, what comes to your mind? Do you have negative feelings? Well, “silos” and structures resembling “silos” are actually pretty essential in many instances. If our esophagi (gullets) and tracheae (windpipes) didn’t function in “silo” fashion, we’d get our stomachs bloated with air and choke on our food and drink much more than we might normally do! Aircraft and ship transponders function properly due to proper “silo-ing” of incoming and outgoing radio signals. Imagine what would happen if you were born without a dividing wall in your heart! So, don’t throw out “silos” completely, they do have their place! In the Intelligence Services, “silo-ing” is essential in order to ensure that if a breach in security occurs, damage is isolated as far as possible. In a submarine, watertight hatches are used to seal off parts of the ship that may be flooding, ensuring that the entire submarine is not lost if the hull happens to be penetrated. Where “silos” are NOT supposed to happen are in organizations where constant communication and cooperation is expected to occur on an ongoing basis.
This is where the illustration of a synapse may come in handy. A synapse is, of course, a place where two nerves meet and pass information along to where it’s needed and intended for. The nerve endings do not actually touch each other. There is a gap between the ends of the nerves and this gap is what is called the synapse. It is bathed in what is known as synaptic fluid and acts as a sort of liquid electrolyte, providing a continuous channel for the signal to get passed on. If departments or divisions within an organization recognize that they ought to operate with each other in a similar way as nerves do, might not inter-departmental work become a lot more productive? Remember, words have the power to influence our thoughts and actions, so do use the words you want, and to which you aspire.
There is also the phenomenon of individual cardiac muscle cells observed to contract rhythmically or “beat” according to their own rhythm when in isolation. However, when individual cardiac muscle cells are brought into close proximity with each other, their “beats” start to become synchronized within a few minutes! Wouldn’t it be great if new staff could behave in a similar fashion where “hitting the ground running” is concerned? It is only when your systems are very well integrated that “groupthink” can be drastically reduced, for only then would you have spare resources to really think strategically and creatively.
Far-fetched, you think? Perhaps not. Start thinking of your organization as a living organism instead of just an organization, and you’ll be well on your way to greater synergy, productivity and much better profitability!