Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman, Rod A. Beckstrom
If you cut off a spider?s head, it dies; if you cut off a starfish?s leg it grows a new one, and that leg can grow into an entirely new starfish. Traditional top-down organizations are like spiders, but now starfish organizations are changing the face of business and the world.
What?s the hidden power behind the success of Wikipedia, craigslist, and Skype? What do eBay and General Electric have in common with the abolitionist and women?s rights movements? What fundamental choice put General Motors and Toyota on vastly different paths?
Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom have discovered some unexpected answers, gripping stories, and a tapestry of unlikely connections. The Starfish and the Spider explores what happens when starfish take on spiders and reveals how established companies and institutions, from IBM to Intuit to the U.S. government, are also learning how to incorporate starfish principles to achieve success.
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.
Table of Contents
Introduction 1 MGM's Mistake and the Apache Mystery 9 The Spider, the Starfish, and the President of the Interent 29 A Sea of Starfish 57 Standing on Five Legs 83 The Hidden Power of the Catalyst 107 Taking on Decentralization 133 The Combo Special: The Hybrid Organization 159 In Search of the Sweet Spot 179 The New World 197 Epilogue 209 Sources 215 Acknowledgments 222 Index 225
What People are Saying About This
"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." Director, Institute For The Future
Nicholas J. Nicholas
"A fantastic read. Constantly weaving stories and connections. You'll never see the world the same way again." Former Co-CEO of Time-Warner
"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." author of Naked in the Boardroom
"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." CEO, Athi River Mining, Ltd., publicly listed
"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." CEO, Omidyar Network; Founder and Chairman, eBay Inc.
From the Publisher
“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 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." Former CEO, Enterprise Networking Systems Inc.
"A must read. Starfish are changing the face of business and society. This page-turner is provocative and compelling." CEO of YPO International
Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations 3.8 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
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!
More than 1 year ago
In 1946, after intensive research, Peter Drucker wrote Concept of the Corporation, a study of decentralization at General Motors. Drucker's book had a profound influence on the business world, particularly on Japanese auto manufacturers, such as Toyota, which incorporated many of his ideas into its operations with great success. Flash forward to 2006, when Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom wrote this pivotal book about 'leaderless organizations.' Their insightful analysis concerns the remarkable organizational revolution under way as hierarchies (spider entities) give way to decentralization (starfish entities). The fundamental tension between these two forces remains a pivotal dynamic in business. Today's decentralization movement makes awareness even more critical. GM failed to learn from Drucker's book. This turned out to be a huge mistake. We recommend: Do not make the same mistake with this important book it should not be ignored.
More than 1 year ago
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.
More than 1 year ago
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.
More than 1 year ago
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.
More than 1 year ago
I love the book it gave me a great insight to why businesses fail and how we could really learn from our own history to avoid mistakes in marketing and expasion. The starfish and spider metaphor was very creative and gives the reader a simplified view of how a businesses could really be successful. although the book was really good i thought some points were made and were being repeated throughout the book other than that this was a great read which should be picked up by many more people to show them how we could improve our businesses and thrive in the future.
More than 1 year ago
Hmmmmmmm huhuhuuhhu ohhhgg i say eat my ouknowha! I rub it in his face
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