Eclectic Curiosity

Spanning Silos

Posted on January 25th, 2009, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Miscellany. No Comments

Two of the foundational elements of creative generalism — both of which I’ve noted here before — are these: 1) that Creative Generalist is a ying-yang sort of term in which the the executional focus of creativity is balanced with the big picture oversight and broader ideation of generalism, and that 2) corporate leaders need to be Creative Generalists. Essentially, this is also the central thesis of David Aaker’s recently published new book Spanning Silos: The New CMO Imperative.

Aaker, a giant in the field of branding and marketing theory, argues that decentralization has spawned powerful product, country, and functional silos which jeopardize companies’ overall marketing efforts. As a result, resources are misallocated, the marketplace is confused by inconsistent messages, and companies fail to leverage scale economies and successes. An equilibrium needs to be found and its the CMO’s job to strike it.

As Aaker remarks in this strategy+business interview:
If the goal of the centralized marketing team appears to be to centralize and standardize, there is a significant risk of organizational resistance or even rebellion. Such changes can easily be perceived as threatening, and they can destroy what’s great about decentralization — vitality, flexibility, accountability, and so on. So the goal should rather be to address silo-driven problems in part through improved communication, trust, and cooperation. Harness those silos and make them work for you by turning them into a source of ideas and a testing lab for the best ideas. Don’t just eliminate them. It may be that centralization and standardization will eventually be part of the process, but it should not be the goal.

Here also is video of a speech that Aaker delivered on the topic last September to the 2008 European Chief Marketing Office Conference. “All companies are decentralized. … Silos are completely unviable in today’s modern world. … Customers want systems solutions.”

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