Ditch the Silo Mindset: The Value of Horizontal Collaboration

For innovation to prosper, an environment that allows for the free flow of information is essential. We call it horizontal collaboration.

These past few months I have frequently presented on this topic, and at each event at least one third of the audience started out by rejecting the idea of collapsing their silo.

Breaking down silos is no easy task for established bosses. How do you create a structure and culture that encourages intergenerational employees to reach outside the boundaries? How do you get people to ditch the silo mindset and allow for the free flow of ideas?

With targeted motivation and the application of structured horizontal collaboration strategies, organizations will rapidly feel the benefits of transcending their silos.

The value of horizontal collaborations is easily observed in a more cohesive, inclusive and productive organizational culture and increased innovative problem-solving.

“Having a deeper understanding of the challenges facing our R & D team helped us restructure budgets and timelines, which ultimately benefited our customer.”  Biotech CFO

Silos hurt organizations – and employees

No one should operate in a silo and here’s why:

  • Silos severely restrict the flow of information between functions/departments
  • Employees trapped in a silo rarely adapt well to change
  • They isolate thoughts and ideas – and limit innovation and problem-solving
  • They create an in-house environment of “empire building” and “territorialism”
  • Silos sanction a “them” and “us” mentality

As you chart your goals for 2020-21, explore tactics to combine your origination’s diverse knowledge and talent, bridge those silos, and help your departments better relate to each other logistically and culturally. Your employees and customers will benefit.

How to start building those horizontal relationships?

Company cultures don’t change overnight, and cannot be done in isolation by changing HR policies, requiring a one-time training, or organizing a talk from the CEO – but it has to start somewhere.

  • Be sure your team know and understand the goals and strategies for the entire organization, not just your department. Remove barriers to knowledge.
  • Give your team permission to bridge those silos. Encourage them to be curious.
  • Ask questions. Organize cross-silo sessions. Uncover more insight, develop empathy, and be vigilant about including more than one perspective in your decision-making process.

Everyone wins.




  • GillespieHall
  • Enabling Horizontal Collaboration Through Continuous Relational Learning; Saenz, Ubaghs, Isabel
  • Harvard Business Review – Heidi Gardner
  • Forbes – Dearman
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