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Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom get it right!

Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom: The Starfish and the Spider

My name is David Marquet, from Practicum, Inc and we help our customers achieve organizational success by getting each person to act as a leader.
Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom's book, The Starfish and the Sp...
Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom: The Starfish and the Spider

My name is David Marquet, from Practicum, Inc and we help our customers achieve organizational success by getting each person to act as a leader.
Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom's book, The Starfish and the Spider, is a compelling description of the strengths and weaknesses of decentralized (the starfish) and centralized (the spider) organizations. Many of the examples of decentralized organizations are recent, such as Craigslist, Napster, Wikipedia, and Skype. They also contrast the decentralized Apaches against the centralized Spanish Army, illustrating that decentralized organizations are not new.

The authors explain that we are in the midst of a revolution where the absence of the traditional leadership model results in organizations without hierarchy. Through their examples, they demonstrate that while you'd think chaos and disorder would be the result, these groups can be tremendously effective.

The authors find biological evidence that supports this result. MIT scientist Jerry Lettvin conducted an experiment which attempted to locate the unique brain cell that housed a specific memory. He couldn't find it. Turns out, the brain itself is a decentralized organ. This means that there is no one cell that houses the memory of grandmother. That would be a fragile architecture as injury to that cell would wipe her out of our memory. Instead, the memory of grandmother lives in a rich pattern of cells. This is a more resilient architecture.

We like their thesis and telling of the story. It is consistent with our findings. We frequently get asked, if the leader does not lead the people, who does? Our answer is that people lead themselves.

In only one area would I describe these decentralized organizations differently than Brafman and Beckstrom and this is a quibble. They claim these are organizations without leaders. We describe these as organizations where everyone is a leader. In any event, they are organizations where there are no followers!

posted by David_Marquet-Practicum on July 7, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Decentralization Rules?

I don't know why so many business leaders thought this book was so great. It starts by stating the obvious - that many new and innovative organizations are highly decentralized and that decentralization is their key to success. OK, so what? What about other organizatio...
I don't know why so many business leaders thought this book was so great. It starts by stating the obvious - that many new and innovative organizations are highly decentralized and that decentralization is their key to success. OK, so what? What about other organizations which cannot adopt or benefit from decentralization? Is there a prediction that they will die out or at least lose their competitive advantage 'fortunately not, because I think that conclusion wrong'? Then what's the big deal that certain decentralized entities benefit from it? Decentralization in no small part depends on trust and even in a more and more transparent world, that is often in short supply. It is not about to take over as a predominant form for businesses or other social organizations.

posted by Anonymous on January 7, 2008

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  • Posted July 7, 2010

    Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom get it right!

    Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom: The Starfish and the Spider

    My name is David Marquet, from Practicum, Inc and we help our customers achieve organizational success by getting each person to act as a leader.
    Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom's book, The Starfish and the Spider, is a compelling description of the strengths and weaknesses of decentralized (the starfish) and centralized (the spider) organizations. Many of the examples of decentralized organizations are recent, such as Craigslist, Napster, Wikipedia, and Skype. They also contrast the decentralized Apaches against the centralized Spanish Army, illustrating that decentralized organizations are not new.

    The authors explain that we are in the midst of a revolution where the absence of the traditional leadership model results in organizations without hierarchy. Through their examples, they demonstrate that while you'd think chaos and disorder would be the result, these groups can be tremendously effective.

    The authors find biological evidence that supports this result. MIT scientist Jerry Lettvin conducted an experiment which attempted to locate the unique brain cell that housed a specific memory. He couldn't find it. Turns out, the brain itself is a decentralized organ. This means that there is no one cell that houses the memory of grandmother. That would be a fragile architecture as injury to that cell would wipe her out of our memory. Instead, the memory of grandmother lives in a rich pattern of cells. This is a more resilient architecture.

    We like their thesis and telling of the story. It is consistent with our findings. We frequently get asked, if the leader does not lead the people, who does? Our answer is that people lead themselves.

    In only one area would I describe these decentralized organizations differently than Brafman and Beckstrom and this is a quibble. They claim these are organizations without leaders. We describe these as organizations where everyone is a leader. In any event, they are organizations where there are no followers!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 9, 2012

    Will change the way you look at the world

    I'd read this book a few years ago, but it wasn't until I was reminded of it that I re-read it and realized what a game-changer it can be for some people. It may be classified as a business book, but it will really get you thinking about the difference between the "culture of scarcity" that has characterized most of our business culture up to this day and the "culture of abundance" that has created some amazing new companies that simply don't play by the old rules.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    Mind opening insight.

    Excellent book, great insight and understanding into how "much" of society is going today in the world of consumer behavior and product engagement and endearment.
    Top book, don't miss it. The stories about Craig's List and others are worth the read/listen by itself.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2012

    Petalheat to cheetwo

    Do me. Im a shecat

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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