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The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations Hardcover – October 5, 2006
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Published in 2006, Brafman and Beckstrom explore and explain the increase in the number of decentralized organizations. Their discussions of organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Napster, and Al-Qaeda make the concepts of decentralized organizations not only pertinent to today’s economy and culture, but also understandable. The traditional top-down hierarchy of centralized organizations creates levels of bureaucracy that make change within an organization slow-going. By the time the change is implemented, it is out of date and in need of modification. These spider organizations have a command and control which dictates the movement of the organization; those employed must comply or risk being out of a job. A decentralized organization creates an environment where there is no head; all are equal and free to contribute to the changes and sustainment within an organization, acting as a form of distributed leadership. In this starfish organization, the members of the group must convince all other members to move and change; the collective make changes happen. Norms, not rules, control a starfish organization.
The internet has changed how we view the world, the next generation of professionals and work-force employees will have grown up with access to knowledge, and the ability to contribute to that knowledge freely. Employees are looking for the catalyst for change to get the starfish moving, and then having that catalyst get out of the way so the employees can make the organization successful. This book is a key addition to professional reading lists for leaders and managers at all levels, educators and students, as well as employees within any organization.
I've already loaned my copy to a friend and they say that it's hard for them to put down.
It’s also hard not to see the parallels between these concepts of decentralization and the Christian faith. Jesus was the first decentralizer of the faith, giving the task of the furtherance of God’s mission to his disciples. As one commentator has said, at the end of the Gospels the disciples say, “Okay Jesus, let’s go, we’ve got your back!” and Jesus responds by saying, “Nope, you go, and I’ve got your back!” It was a fundamental shift that allowed Christianity to grow exponentially, especially as the Apostles began to relinquish control. The same is true today – the Kingdom can grow exponentially to the extent that control over it can be given over to the King. As we grab control and try to centralize it along our means, we limit it. In reality, God has given to every man the essential tools of the faith – the Scriptures containing everything necessary for faith, and the Holy Spirit to understand and apply them. As we release those things, the Kingdom grows.