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The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations [Paperback]

by Ori Brafman, Rod A. Beckstrom
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brafman and Beckstrom, a pair of Stanford M.B.A.s who have applied their business know-how to promoting peace and economic development through decentralized networking, offer a breezy and entertaining look at how decentralization is changing many organizations. The title metaphor conveys the core concept: though a starfish and a spider have similar shapes, their internal structure is dramatically different—a decapitated spider inevitably dies, while a starfish can regenerate itself from a single amputated leg. In the same way, decentralized organizations, like the Internet, the Apache Indian tribe and Alcoholics Anonymous, are made up of many smaller units capable of operating, growing and multiplying independently of each other, making it very difficult for a rival force to control or defeat them. Despite familiar examples—eBay, Napster and the Toyota assembly line, for example—there are fresh insights, such as the authors' three techniques for combating a decentralized competitor (drive change in your competitors' ideology, force them to become centralized or decentralize yourself). The authors also analyze one of today's most worrisome "starfish" organizations—al-Qaeda—though that group undermines the authors' point that the power of leaderless groups helps to demonstrate the essential goodness and trustworthiness of human beings. (Oct. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

The Starfish and the Spider is a compelling and important book.” —Pierre Omidyar, CEO, Omidyar Network and Founder and Chairman, eBay Inc.



The Starfish and the Spider, like Blink, The Tipping Point, and The Wisdom of Crowds before it, showed me a provocative new way to look at the world and at business. It's
also fun to read!” —Robin Wolaner, founder, Parenting Magazine and author, Naked in the Boardroom



“A fantastic read.  Constantly weaving stories and connections.  You'll never see the world the same way again.” —Nicholas J. Nicholas Jr., former Co-CEO, Time Warner



“A must-read.  Starfish are changing the face of business and society.  This page-turner is provocative and compelling.” —David Martin, CEO, Young Presidents' Organization



The Starfish and the Spider provides a powerful prism for understanding the patterns and potential of self-organizing systems.”  —Steve Jurvetson, Partner, Draper Fisher Jurvetson



The Starfish and the Spider lifts the lid on a massive revolution in the making, a revolution certain to reshape every organization on the planet from bridge clubs to global governments. Brafman and Beckstrom elegantly describe what is afoot and offer a wealth of insights that will be invaluable to anyone starting something new—or rescuing something old—amidst this vast shift.” —Paul Saffo, Director, Institute for the Future
 
 “The Starfish and the Spider is great reading.  [It has] not only stimulated my thinking, but as a result of the reading, I proposed ten action points for my own organization."
—Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Advance praise for The Starfish and the Spider

"The Starfish and the Spider is a compelling and important book, rich with examples of how decentralization is fundamental to what I call the 'right environment'--one that promotes equal access, rich connections and 'skin in the game' for participants."
--Pierre Omidyar CEO, Omidyar Network; Founder and Chairman, eBay Inc.

"The Starfish and the Spider, like Blink, The Tipping Point, and The Wisdom of Crowds before it, showed me a provocative new way to look at the world and at business. It's also fun to read! It's a quick read, but a profound one. Every CEO should think about what aspects of catalyst leadership they embody, or can embody, for the good of their company."
--Robin Wolaner, author of Naked in the Boardroom

"A fantastic read. Constantly weaving stories and connections. You'll never see the world the same way again."
--Nicholas J. Nicholas, Former Co-CEO of Time-Warner

"A must read. Starfish are changing the face of business and society. This page-turner is provocative and compelling."
--David Martin, CEO of YPO International

"Starfish provides a powerful perceptual prism for understanding the patterns and potential of self-organizing systems."
--Steve Jurvetson, Partner, Draper Fisher Jurvetson

"Starfish lifts the lid on a massive revolution in the making, a revolution certain to reshape every organization on the planet from bridge clubs to global governments. Brafman and Beckstrom elegantly describe what is afoot and and offer a wealth of insights that will be invaluable to anyone starting something new--or rescuing something old--amidst this vast shift."
--Paul Saffo Director, Institute For The Future

"The Starfish and the Spider is great reading. [It has] not only stimulated my thinking, but as a result of the reading, I proposed ten action points for my own organization."
--Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, Davos

"Starfish challenges the command and control economy with the power of participatory consumers. From eBay to Google, Skype to Craig's List, inspired individuals are catalyzing a marked shift from hierarchies to the wisdom of crowds. Ori and Rod provide sharp insights into how to avoid becoming the next victim of this market populism; or if you are so inclined, the strategies to take on those vulnerable incumbents."
--Randy Komisar, Author, Stanford Professor, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers Partner

"I just read The Starfish and the Spider a second time. I am writing a Board paper asking my Board to approve a completely new top management structure. I have borrowed heavily from your thoughts, and feel even in an age-old bricks and mortar industry, we can apply some of the leaderless organization rules to grow faster and be significant to our members and our communities."
--Pradeep Paunrana, CEO, Athi River Mining, Ltd., publicly listed Kenya Company

"It is my pleasure to endorse The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. Reading The Starfish and the Spider is like jumping into the minds of two visionaries who can see possibilities for our world that others can not hope to even imagine. But the great thrill of this book is that these two authors are visionaries who have already achieved extraordinary accomplishments in this world - they know how to make visions incarnate. That's why you need to read this book. They see the world the way it can be."
--Caroline Myss, Author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Sacred Contracts

"In addition to being highly readable and highly entertaining, Beckstrom and Brafman make a strong case for the leaderless organization, an approach that is too often unappreciated in today's world."
--Robert Leaf, Former Chairman, Burson Marsteller International

"The Starfish and the Spider is an intelligent and compellingly written exposition of the importance of decentralization in our lives, culture and economy. The authors' weaving of neurochemistry with economics sociology and psychology entertained and educated me and will do the same for anyone who wants to learn."
--Frederic Luskin, Ph.D. Director Stanford Forgiveness Projects... Author Forgive for Good

"Starfish represents an important framework for understanding and mastering distributed leadership."
--David Whorton, Managing Director, Tugboat Ventures

"How do you *think* about running your organization in a world where customers openly share their opinions of your business without you controlling the dialog? Is your mentality starfish or spider driven? Read about insightful examples and consequences of paths companies, governments, and social groups have pursued."
--Edward A. Smith, VP of Marketing, Clickshift

"Before I read The Starfish and The Spider, I often felt like I was bobbing alone in a sea of old ideas in how I chose to manifest and guide an organization or project. Now my instincts are affirmed and I go forth with greater insight, confidence and words to articulate my ideas. And of course, I am on the lookout for other starfish."
--Kimberly Carlisle, The Carlisle Enterprise and The Flag Foundation

"This book explains clearly and simply the power of decentralized organization. If decentralized organization sounds like an oxymoron, read on! This is a powerful new organizational model and Brafman and Beckstrom demonstrate how and why it is taking industries by storm."
--Steve Farrell, Former CEO, Enterprise Networking Systems Inc.

"This is one of those books that is so striking, that I keep bringing it up in conversations. As the head of an international nonprofit, the insights into non-hierarchical organizations are not just valuable, they're essential to our work in the future."
--Jim Fruchterman CEO, Benetech

"I'd suggest adding to the list the upcoming The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. It's another great look at how we can often be more effective by subverting hierarchy rather than following it."
--Scott Allen The Ubiquitous Librarian *Blog

"I actually finished it within 48 hours of receiving it, but wanted to re-read and think about it more...it is amazing and continues to give me much to consider - something happens every other day that makes me think about the concepts. Bravo!"
--Jessica Flannery, Co-founder Kiva.org
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ori Brafman is a lifelong entrepreneur.  His adventures include a wireless startup, health food advocacy group, and a network of CEOs working on public benefit projects, which he co-founded with Rod Beckstrom.   He holds a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford Business School.


Rod A. Beckstrom is a serial start-up entrepreneur. He founded CATS Software Inc, which he took public and has helped start and build other high tech firms.  Rod has served on various private and nonprofit boards.  He holds a BA and MBA from Stanford and is a Fulbright Scholar.

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