Brexit, Siloism and Tolerance

“Siloism” is the maximization of one set of goals to the detriment of a wider common good, the assumption being that teamwork and synergy (not siloism) achieves common good via optimization and integration of all subsets of goals.

Leaders, consultants and trainers fight combat organizational siloism with slogans, training programs and many other weapons de jour.

Yet siloism remains rampant, since the average Joe in the trenches believes that organizations are war zones, and if he does not watch out for his own ass, no one else will do so. And often this is true, since in bad times, management maximizes its own survival goals and shafts the Joes-of-the-world via massive downsizing and outsourcing.

Brexit is an example of political siloism. Not enough Brits saw the value of what they saw as  subjugating their countries’ goals to larger “common good”. In other words, the benefits of larger common good did not filter down to enough people.

It is very hard to market a lot of what the EU has to offer in the short run, ie the next 100 years, beyond the life time of many voters. When you lose your job to a robot or an offshore location and view at your doorstep the massive amounts of illegal immigration from the melt-down in the Middle East,  it is no surprise that the common European good did not sell well. 

In my work with hundreds of organizations fighting siloism, I have learnt to respect the voice of the silo builder, who has a rationale for his behaviour. I do not agree with the motives for siloism, but I understand these motives. The same must be said of the Brexit. Were I British, I would have voted Remain. I believe in  a pan EU. But I am a member of the elite which benefits from things like this.

Leaders would be wise to respect not only the vote, but accept the motivations behind the vote. The first stage to combating solo-ism is empathy with the silo builder.

I live in a country in which many people are both religious and very right wing. I am secular (totally atheistic) and very, very left wing. Yet many of my clients and a few of my close friends have a very different belief system than mine. People who know me are aware that I am by  no means a patient person. Yet the dialogue with people who have very different opinions has both enriched and mellowed me. I make every effort to understand the consistency and world view of ideas different from mine.



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9 thoughts on “Brexit, Siloism and Tolerance

  1. I agree that its important to understand and respect siloism – this is a well said article. But there is a slight suggestion here that siloism will benefit the ‘working class’ where the pan-European approach did not – and that is not clear. To me the siloism is an emotional reaction that led to a binary decision process – we are getting a divorce because you leave the toilet seat up – rather than any real attempt to address the underlying issues. Everything changes and yet remains the same.

  2. Oh yes, a job is not a toilet seat – but it is the unraveling of a union of some kind. The issue of the toilet seat usually reflects a deeper concern – a failure to respect each others point of view. Thus I felt it was a reasonable metaphor. Of course the question always remains – did the voters see this as a meaningful response – or was it reactionary – as you pointed out Businesses frequently do massive layoffs when a the numbers look bad – and then hire back overpriced folks and expect them to do more – rather than considering other options for the why the numbers look bad. There is also a backlash it seems – a million signatures on a petition to revote – and many saying – gee we didn’t know it would do this. But its done and now we shall see if siloism works in their favor. Will they rename it – Divided Kingdom?

  3. IMHO, at least a portion of the vote can be attributed to an apparent incapacity on the part of the electorate to understand & exercise systems thinking.

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