CROSS~SILO has identified that barriers between functional silos are one of the root causes of low productivity, erratic customer experiences, and decelerated growth. Strict functional boundaries that shape these barriers can be especially harmful during transformative change (disruptive innovation).
As described by Max Weber, bureaucracy can be very effective during times of modest technological progress, generally leading to more sustaining innovation. The popular management theory demands formal job descriptions to keep employees highly focused on their part. As a result, the output is more consistent, and workers are more productive, leading to more profit and more shareholder value.
However, especially during times of transformative change, strict functions and mental silos hamper creativity and innovation, while it makes no sense to work consistently toward a discontinuous future.
Instead, we need to allow our people to cross the functional lines, i.e., the functional silos, as ‘innovation hinges more and more on interdisciplinary cooperation’ (Harvard’s Heidi Gardner).
Besides, the notion that innovation comes from people acting purely from self-interest, as often proclaimed by capitalists, could not be further from the truth. Instead, innovation comes from a group of people with a diversity of thought, working together to come up with a better solution to a known problem, in a way none of the individuals by themselves would have been able to device.
Cubicles versus Open Spaces
How do you envision corporate hell? It probably involves fluorescent light, a micromanaging boss and a tiny, impersonal cubicle. But the office layout that’s come to represent the worst in work was actually designed to bring out the best in workers. When they debuted in the 1960s, cubicles were supposed to make offices breezier, less confined and more efficient.
Meanwhile, Robert Propst (the inventor of what became known as the cubicle but he himself called the Action Office), watched in horror as an invention intended to liberate American office workers was used to fence them in. “Not all organizations are intelligent and progressive,” he lamented. “Lots are run by crass people. They make little, bitty cubicles and stuff people in them. Barren, rathole places.”
Even though the cubicles have been abandoned by some companies in favor of open floorplans, coworking and communal offices, Propst’s invention still boxes in about 30 percent of workers. And by the time he died in 2000, Propst had spent years apologizing for creating a corporate monster.