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Why resistance stifles new ideas

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Corporate innovation requires seamless collaboration across departments. Unfortunately, at many companies, silo mentality resists cross-functional cooperation.

That’s one reason Sony can’t catch up with Apple in delivering supercool gadgets.

Sony is trying to overcome the roadblocks. Three years ago, Sony CEO Howard Stringer hired Tim Schaaff, a former Apple lieutenant, as senior vice president for software development. He gave Schaaff unprecedented freedom to build cooperation among Sony’s different—and often warring—units. So far, though, Schaaff hasn’t cracked the code.

Early in Schaaff’s tenure, Stringer pinned his hopes on an e-book device called the Reader. In meeting with engineers, though, Schaaff quickly discovered the e-book device was hung up by infighting.

Silo mentality kept Schaaff from resolving the problems, and when the Reader launched in October 2006, it got a lukewarm reception. Meanwhile, rival device Kindle (by Amazon) stole the limelight.

— Adapted from “Sony Chases Apple’s Magic,” Cliff Edwards, Kenji Hall and Ronald Grover, BusinessWeek.

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