Break down those silos and re-build from above and below

Trying to get everyone on the same page? As long as your team members stay in their silos, your job will be next to impossible. To break down the thick walls between silos, build on the things all silos have in common: the sky above (vision) and the ground below (values).

The silos metaphor is an idea I came across on reading Mark Goulston’s latest book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

Use the silos metaphor as a way to bridge differences

As someone interested in discovering ways to bridge differences, I like the silos metaphor. Here’s my thoughts why:

  • We need the sky; the big picture, the world of possibilities, the potential of self-actualization, a future to dream and shoot for!
  • We also need to be grounded.  The ground holds our roots, our core values and beliefs, as its’ from there that we grow.
  • Linking values and vision demands consistency; being true to oneself, aligning our habits with our values, and moving in the general direction of our vision.
  • Building consensus requires us to find common interests and solutions; interests and solutions that build on shared values and goals.
  • Both values and vision are needed when times get tough; we need to be able to draw sustenance from our roots, and at the same time have a beacon ahead of us, a reminder of what our compass is set on.
  • It allows us to be unique. We can share some common values and vision, and yet individually we can still be unique, creative in our own way, as long as we are consistent with our shared values and vision.
  • It gives us a framework for sustainability. Sustainability is linked to long-term relationships. Connecting values and vision, too, is about the long-term, and being authentic in our relationships, to ourselves, with others, and life itself!
  • We live in two worlds, order and chaos. In the world of order, we plan, reflect, and think about what to do next. In the world of chaos, things happen, we get things done, yet unpredictability persists. Could the ground be our ordered world, the one where we think we are in control? And the sky, does it represent the chaos around us, a world of increasing complexity, conflict, and uncertainty? One person: two worlds! We need metaphors and frameworks that help us bridge these two worlds.

Questions to ask others (and yourself)

If the sky represents potential and possibility, what questions can you ask someone, to get them to pause, and look up to the sky, to bigger possibilities, to a higher level? Ask the right ask the right question and you’ll find your eyes moving up, a clear sign that your mind is opening up to new possibilities. Cause people to look up and reflect on what you’ve asked them, and when they look back down at you, the conversation will never be the same again. It’ll be better.  (Mark Goulston)

And, as to the ground, and our values – What questions can you ask that springboard into conversations that will bridge differences? How do you know when you’ve asked the right ground/value questions (thinking of eyes moving up for a sky question)?

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Photo credit: ZoomZoom


  1. Very nice post. I never would have imagined the silo analogy on my own!

  2. Thank you Alexandria. I can echo your comments as a I too, of course, found this analogy from someone else (Goulston’s book). And passing the analogy on seems the right thing to do (as Seth Godin might say… ideas (like silo) aren’t earning interest if we keep them to ourself – best to pass them on if we think the idea is good, and help the idea spread).

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