Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gillian Tett

Gillian Tett's latest book is The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers.

From the transcript of her interview with Fareed Zakaria:
ZAKARIA: You take on these central ideas that we all think of as very good, which is efficiency, specialization, doing what you do to the nth degree. Why is that a problem?

TETT: Here is the issue. We think we live in a hyper connected world. We have our cell phones, our airplanes, our supply chains, our markets. They link us all together. But the reality is, when you look at how we live and think, we are actually as fragmented, if not more fragmented, than ever before. And sometimes that specialization is good. You need to have experts. You need to have departments that do things. You need to have professions. The problem is though that when you have hyper specialization and when you have those different professions and departments that don't talk to each other and connect, then you start to get big problems. You get people who can't see opportunities and they can't see risks either.

ZAKARIA: Sony. One of your great examples of Sony, which was so dominant in the world of consumer electronics, and kind of went by the wayside, what happened?

TETT: My book tells the stories of companies who were filled with bright individuals who do some really dumb things, and tragically Sony is one example of that. If you think back to what happened at the turn of the century, you had a generation of music listeners who were obsessed with the Walkman, and by all logical reasoning Sony should have dominated the era of digital Walkman. Because it had not just computing, it had electronics, it had a great brand, and it had its music label inside Sony. You want to know why it did not happen?

It's because around the turn of the century, Sony tried to get into the whole idea of a digital Walkman, a portable electronic Walkman, an Internet Walkman, and it launched not one but two competing products because it had different departments that could not talk to each other or collaborate, and that created a situation where they cannibalized each other, and essentially Steve Jobs jumped in with the Apple and the iPod, and these days we're all carrying...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue