Starfish And The Spider

BookJust read a book called The Starfish And The Spider. This was a business book that contrasted companies that have centralized leadership (spiders) and decentralized leadership (starfish). Spiders have eight legs coming out of a central body and a tiny head and if you chop the head off of the spider it dies. Starfish on the other hand do not have heads and all major organs are replicated throughout it’s arms.

The book talks about the benifits of being an organization that is decentralize (ie. has a very flat structure and everyone has ownership) as well as the weaknesses and how to do a combo of the two.

Personally I probably lean more toward the centralized structure but this book definitely made me think of the benefits of decentralizing different aspects of the church. Here are a few of the things I highlighted:

  1. When no one is in charge, you’d think there would be disorder, even chaos. But in many arena’s, a lack of traditional leadership is giving rise to powerful groups that are turning the industry and society upside down.
  2. (History Lesson) – The Spanish easily defeated the Aztec’s and the Incas (which had a centralize leadership structure) after they killed their leaders, but when they faced the Apaches, they were defeated (Apaches had a decentralize structure and were harder to defeat).
  3. An open system (decentralized) doesn’t have centralized intelligence; the intelligence is spread throughout the system
  4. Open systems can easily mutate.
  5. Decentralized organizations can grow quickly and take over an industry overnight.
  6. As industries become decentralized, overall revenues decrease.
  7. Some examples of decentralize organizations are:
    • Skype, Craigslist, Wikipedia (these are interesting to read about)
  8. Quote – “put people into an open system and they’ll automatically want to contribute”.
  9. When you give people freedom, you get chaos, but you also get incredible creativity. Because everyone tries to contribute, you get a variety of expressions.
  10. Instead of rules there are norms. Members of these groups enforce the norms with one another.
  11. Another characteristic is that these groups have what are called catalyst. Catalyst gets things going then cedes control to the members. In letting go of the leadership role the catalyst transfers ownership and responsibility to the group.
  12. Once people gain a right to property, they quickly seek out a centralized system to protect their interests. The moment you introduce property rights into the equation, everything changes: the starfish quickly becomes a spider.
  13. Starfish systems are wonderful incubators for creative, destructive, innovative or crazy ideas.
  14. Managing a decentralized network requires someone who is a cheerleader, architect and awestruck observer.

4 thoughts on “Starfish And The Spider

  1. For starters, you did not “Just” read a book. You read 8 pages reviewing the overall concepts of a book. 8 pages is a far cry from an entire book. However, your post is valuable and you made 3 of them today. I applaud you. Welcome back Greg Surratt.

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