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The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations Paperback – July 29, 2008
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“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'salso 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
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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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.
The Starfish and the Spider is a compelling book that uses the symbolism of a starfish and a spider to describe the importance of decentralization in life, culture, and economics.
The thesis is that every organization needs to move towards decentralization, in some manner or form, if they are to not only exist, but also thrive in the future - in other words, the rules have changed.
Spanning across the book, the authors outline eight principles of decentralization, which they use to explain their thesis:
1. "When attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized" (Location 290)
2. "It's easy to mistake starfish for spiders" (Location 415)
3. "The intelligence is spread throughout the system" (Location 467)
4. "Open systems can easily mutate" (Location 474)
5. "Because the decentralized organization mutates so quickly, it can also grow incredibly quickly" (Location 489)
6. "As industries become decentralized, overall profits decrease" (Location 534)
7. "Put people into an open system and they'll automatically want to contribute" (Location 825)
8. "When attacked, centralized organizations tend to become even more centralized" (Location 1524).
Upon explaining these principles, the authors end by addressing how an organization can embrace both decentralization and centralization along a continuum, along with ten projections for how organizations need to operate in order to thrive in the future.
The genius of this book is that the authors recognize who their primary audience is - spider organizations. Although they favor decentralization, they make sure not to alienate their primarily spider audience by proposing the concept of a decentralized sweet spot. So my primary question is, how do I help my centralized organization, Beulah, find its decentralized sweet spot? "The decentralized sweet spot is the point along the centralized-decentralized continuum that yields the best competitive position" (Location 2094).
This was an easy and engaging read, illustrating a very important concept to thrive as an organization into the future. Thus, I give this book a 5 out of 5.