[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of term "information silo"?
Grider, Gary A
ggrider at lanl.gov
Fri Aug 2 14:15:23 PDT 2013
STK Powderhorns were referred to STK Silos back in the 80's/90's I think because of their shape.
From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org] On Behalf Of James Cortada
Sent: Friday, August 02, 2013 2:57 PM
To: Martin Campbell-Kelly
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Origin of term "information silo"?
I have encountered the term overwhelmingly in American businesses, but now it is a slang term used in English in other countries too. I began to hear the term in the mid-1980s both inside of IBM and elsewhere (conferences and by customers of mine) in various business functions; so it is not an IT-specific term. I remember it as a 1980s term because I have long paid attention to arcane uses of vocabulary in business, e.g., "we will solution the problem," as my favorite horrible use of English, "face time," etc.
I can assure you that the vast majority of people using the term never thought about farming processes or ICBMs. What they did grasp very quickly was the long tube-like structure which were on farms, even though they did not know how and why those tubes were used. What they did understand was that whatever was in there was separated from the rest of the environment around it. From the beginning, they accepted the concept that silos represented organizations that were inward focused, paid attention to their individual needs, wants, and political behavior with less or no regard for the needs and interests of the rest of a corporation, unless such activities affected their own team, department or division. Being "silo-centrict" (I told you I collected such horrible uses of English) is considered inappropriate behavior but is (a) practiced by everyone in business to some extent or another and (b) is assumed to govern the behavior of everyone around out. Consultants and business school professor complain about how terrible this behavior is, but they are ignored because everyone's performance appraisals are designed to optimize the performance of the individual, not of the organization as a whole. BTW--I continue also to hear this term used in government as well. However, in both the private and public sectors it is a term used by large organizations, not your neighborhood bar, dry cleaning establishment, or Apple store.
I hope this is of help, and that you have learned more than you wanted to hear. Cheers!!
On Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 3:21 PM, Martin Campbell-Kelly <m.campbell-kelly at warwick.ac.uk<mailto:m.campbell-kelly at warwick.ac.uk>> wrote:
The first time I encountered this term was in the article in Scientific
American by Al Gore "Infrastructure for the Global Village", Sept 1991.
Martin Campbell-Kelly, Dept of Computer Science
University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, U.K.
voice: +44 24 7652 3193<tel:%2B44%2024%207652%203193> fax: +44 24 7657 3024<tel:%2B44%2024%207657%203024>
email: M.Campbell-Kelly at warwick.ac.uk<mailto:M.Campbell-Kelly at warwick.ac.uk>
From: members-bounces at sigcis.org<mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org> [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org<mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org>] On
Behalf Of Janet Abbate
Sent: 02 August 2013 20:11
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Origin of term "information silo"?
Does anyone know the origin of the term "information silos"? It's commonly
used as a criticism of groups that don't share information for either
organizational or technical reasons.
This has always struck me as an odd metaphor. After all, in real life it's a
good thing that grain is isolated in a silo; there is no physical-world
benefit to connecting or "busting" silos, so how did this become a metaphor
for good information management? And why would slowly fermenting fodder be a
good metaphor for information?
I'm assuming here that the term refers to farming and not to missile
silos... which would be equally odd.
Dr. Janet Abbate
Science & Technology in Society
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James W. Cortada
Senior Research Fellow
Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota
jcortada at umn.edu<mailto:jcortada at umn.edu>
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