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The Heavy Price of Organisational Silos

Bruce Britton

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31st Jan 2012

I have just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s incisive biography of Steve Jobs. It was fascinating to gain insights into Jobs’ visionary thinking for Apple (and Pixar). In a particularly revealing section on the development of the iPod and iTunes, Isaacson reports how Sony – a company that should have been able to beat Apple in the digital music-marketing business – was unable to get its act together because of internal conflicts. Sony’s consumer electronics Division (that had developed the Walkman and put music in people’s pockets), and its music Division (which controlled a massive catalogue of recordings and artists) were more intent on protecting their own interests than in the collaboration needed to develop an end-to-end integrated digital music service. It’s a text-book example of ‘silo’ thinking (the overlooked clue is in the name: ‘Division’!) and it cost Sony hundreds of millions of dollars by allowing the iPod and iTunes to dominate the digital music market. They should have read Bridging Organizational Silos by Olivier Serrat.

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