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Posted on October 16, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Humble Leadership Lessons from Michael Bloomberg: How to Tear Down Silos

Humble Leadership Lessons from Michael Bloomberg: How to Tear Down Silos

Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg knew exactly what he wanted when he moved into NYC hall as mayor elect: open communication. He even went so far as to set up the physical office space to foster and force the diagonal communication of his staff.

Bloomberg used a highly unconventional approach and converted the lavish Hearing Room at NYC hall into a bullpen. He filled the space with cubicles, including one for himself right in the center where he was physically surrounded by his top lieutenants – the same way he had at the financial and media conglomerate that made him a billionaire. 

The physical environment quite literally tore down silos and enhanced cross-pollination of ideas. 

In Bloomberg’s words, “I issue proclamations telling everyone to work together, but it’s the lack of walls that really makes them do it.” And: “If you lock yourself into your office, you cannot be a good executive.” 

In the words of one of his former staffers: “At first I thought it was all BS, but when I started seeing the Mayor having very high-level meetings right within earshot, I knew it was real!” 

Bloomberg’s bullpen is a way of acknowledging the world is networked, chaotic and unpredictable. We don’t know what serendipitous encounters, connections, and conversations might prove valuable, but we want to enable them!

It’s generally agreed that the results of Bloomberg’s tenure as two-time mayor of NYC are excellent by those who know the city well. It’s even been said that the NYC government has never been so well run. 

Your take-away:

  • How can you change your physical work environment to help tear down silos and enable cross departmental communication?