This is something which I keep thinking about and seems to be relevant in so many situations. I am only focussing on business law – my specialist area , but think about its application in international politics, medicine , teaching and so on.  It started during my discussions as part of the Good Law Initiative working group. Silos could perhaps be defined, at least by me,  as the following four “parts” of the business law system in which I work– academics, professionals, clients and Whitehall / Westminster. [ Note that for the purposes of this discussion , I have not included the legal system as a specific part , as I think that would be wrong] I am sure the Silo concept could be applied to various other parts of the economy as well as areas already mentioned. Silos, as I understand it,  generally allow no leakage in or out and are seen as self-contained units unless, like me, you are lucky enough to straddle some or all of them. I don’t think, as I have described them, they are beneficial to any one part of the system; are they ?

 

Within the area of the economy in which I am particularly involved – that is the legal market relating to small and medium sized enterprises (“SME’s”) there is little interaction between those four groups so far as I am aware .   I have written before in respect of the much bigger organisations (whether they are international investment banks, large accounting firms, FTSE 100 companies and, perhaps, (although I cannot of course possibly  confirm or deny !!) government ministers and/or senior civil servants ), where there is I believe a silo breakdown and so a lot more inter-silo contact between members of the various silos. Is this because, perhaps, the need for that contact, particularly from an overall  economic and /or a political point of view, is much more important than for smaller organisations or for some other reason?

 

For example, if a FTSE 100 company is pitching for a £1 billion contract overseas, it is quite possibly going to need government support as well as support from numerous of its professional advisers. It may also be because the size of each silo at that “top/ exclusive “( call it what you will), level, is still much smaller than in the case of the millions of SMEs. This perhaps is a reflection of how the City itself used to operate when some quite rightly , I think, described it as a club.

 

However an SME with a turnover of, say, £5 million wanting to obtain an overseas order  is I suggest much less likely to have contact with other silos except, perhaps, with its local professional advisers. I wonder how interested the other silos would be in getting involved – at the £100m level, “sure“ but at the £5m level, “maybe not”.

 

I am also aware that in other areas, for example medical research, successful attempts have been made to break down the silo mentality.

 

My question is whether the lack of contact between the silos is a barrier to better and more productive business and better and more useful information flows. I think the answer must be yes but I have done little research on this at the moment.  I have had discussions, as mentioned, with members of all three other silos, academia, Whitehall/Westminster and of course many of my clients themselves.   All of us think this is a topic worth exploring so that is what I intend to do in a further series of short notes. I would very much welcome any comments.

2 thoughts on “Silos- An idea for breaking down barriers

  1. Nick,

    I think you are absolutely spot on. The problem of the silo mentality is that each silo has its own logic that often precludes supporting those in another silo. For example, in my experience politicians and policymakers rarely consider the needs of entrepreneurs even though these individuals are vital for a dynamic economy (here there may be a mismatch between time preferences, i.e. the next election versus economic growth over the next decade). Politicians tend to be much more attuned to the needs of large, established businesses, and even the policies that are in place to support entrepreneurs are not properly communicated.

    At The Entrepreneurs Network we try to break down the political silo for entrepreneurs, but as you suggest this is only one of many silos. In my experience, the academia and the policy process silos are particularly impermeable to each other.

    Philip

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