While silos serve an important purpose in agriculture – in an organization, they are toxic and impede innovation by limiting the flow of information that people need to do their best work. A digital transformation starts by building bridges between the silos in and around one’s organization.

We have evolved from an agrarian age into an industrial one, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that we still build these legacy silos into our organizations. We have actually developed a habit of building silos. In our homes, we have an uncontrollable need to compartmentalise things into rooms, cupboards and drawers. In the digital world, we create silos of data within our intra-nets, servers, partitions, applications and databases. In digital marketing, we strive to create segments to market our messages in relevant ways. Our websites are categorized and segmented into themes in order to allow users to find relevant information efficiently – just like with rooms, cupboards and drawers in our homes or silos on farms to store and refine our harvest each year.

It’s all a result of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy always increases with time. We must create order from chaos as we fight the forces of entropy (a must read).

So how do we move from building silos, which will never disappear for as long as humans exit, to building bridges? How do we help people, teams and organizations build bridges, which promote the flow of information and which, in turn, empowers people to do their best work? The answer is simple really, though not easy. We connect the silos. We link the information – just like doors that allow us to move from room to room and access cupboards, drawers and the things inside them. We build bridges to connect the silos.

You see, information, data, currencies, commodities or any other assets are worthless unless they are put to good use and facilitate processes. That’s how they gain value. So here are just some of the questions you can ask yourself and your organisation: What information is valuable to our organisation? Where can we find this information? How can we collect, store and distribute it? Where would a particular piece of information be of most value? How do we connect sources of information to further maximize its value?

Be Accessible. Be Ubiquitous. Be Flexible. Be Shareable. Be On-Demand. We’ve all heard these before. They are buzz words which describe a state of “connection”.  How can we use the powers of Metcalfe’s law and Moore’s law to connect and exponentially amplify the value of any one piece of information? Part of the answer resides in both these laws. Check them out!

It’s the movement and velocity of information that make it valuable. That’s why we are now in the information age. Information is becoming abundant through technologies that connect it and give it velocity. That’s why in the digital age we build APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which connect applications and facilitate data sharing, giving this data even greater value. That’s why we now have data management platforms (DMPs), which help us connect, analyse and draw insights from data that drives decisions and actions towards desired outcomes.

You may also be interested in How to Own Your 1st Party Data: An Interview With Gopesh Raichura

The biggest and arguably most successful companies on this planet – if you measure success by impacting people’s lives (good or bad) – are in the business of selling access to this data by building APIs that their customers can use to access the data and connect multiple points.  Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba – these are all platform organizations, which focus on connecting things, information and people and, in turn, connecting supply and demand in a multi-sided system of connected assets.

That’s why we build links to connect webpages. That’s why we like things on social media, which connects information and gives it more meaning. Every time we make a call, chat to a friend, like a post, share an email, connect to a wifi or network, we are promoting the flow and velocity of information, which gives it value. We are also building the world-wide-web (now called the Internet-of-Things) in the process where “things” are connecting to the Internet at a rate faster than we can count.

Without APIs, links, likes, shares, emails, calls, which can all be summed up neatly into the one word “connection”, the digital world would also be a bunch of silos. And every time we connect, we build a bridge between two silos (yes, you are also a silo full of useful information) that promote the movement and velocity of information. Without such bridges, the growth of the digital world would be crippled by disconnected information silos – a toxic factor. And that’s exactly what we see today in struggling organizations.

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