F*ck your Silo: Start Thinking In-between Disciplines

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One thing I despise is siloed thinking and worse, siloed operations in business. Where nobody knows what other departments are doing. It’s insanely inefficient and ineffective. Strategy can only work effectively if all the parts of the whole work together

“The best ideas do not emerge within disciplines, they emerge at the intersections between them.”

Rory Sutherland

Interdisciplinary thinking drives creative solutions, uncovers new perspectives, and sparks meaningful innovation regardless of the organisation. So here’s how to put this into practice:

  1. Embrace Diversity of Thought:
    • Realise the limitations of thinking within a single discipline. – When you’re a hammer, every problem is a nail.
    • Explore which diverse perspectives in your context can lead to more innovative ideas, otherwise… just explore blindly and see what you find out.
    • Recruit others to join you in breaking free from traditional disciplinary boundaries. Setup cross-department meetings on a single problem, ask a colleague in a different section for their opinion on it, etc.
  2. Change the Environment:
    • Create digital or IRL spaces that encourage collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas.
    • Provide examples of successful interdisciplinary collaborations in various industries. There are MANY, just google it.
    • Show how interdisciplinary teams can contribute to solving complex problems more effectively.
  3. Leveraging Cross-Disciplinary Insights:
    • Investigate insights from different fields and see how they can be applied to solve challenges in your domain.
    • Borrow concepts, methodologies, and strategies from unrelated disciplines.
  4. Overcoming Challenges:
    • Identify potential challenges within your organisation or culture in embracing interdisciplinary thinking. What stumbling blocks are there which encourages siloed thinking vs. cross-disciplinary thinking.
    • Provide strategies for overcoming these challenges – some examples were mentioned above.

Key Examples:

  1. The iPhone – brought together elements of telecommunications, computer science, software development, and industrial design. Engineers, software developers, designers, and marketers from various disciplines had to collaborate closely to create devices that seamlessly combined phone functionality, computing power, internet connectivity, and user-friendly interfaces.
  2. Recommendation Algorithms – Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify, heavily rely on recommendation algorithms to personalize user experiences and drive sales. The development and improvement of these algorithms involve cross-disciplinary collaboration between computer scientists, data scientists, machine learning experts, and domain specialists.

It’s intuitive… we already know that by embracing a diverse range of perspectives, fostering collaborative environments, and leveraging cross-disciplinary insights, we can grow and innovate faster. This way of thinking and operating also has the additional benefit of increasing overall organisational morale and professional fulfilment throughout. Better for customers/users and better for employees… what’s not to love?

So… what’s siloed in your organisation? What can you do about it? Where are you going to start?