Friday, January 25, 2008
The Starfish and the Spider
I just finished a good book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. It reminded me of books like A New Brand World and The Tipping Point. It is about the power of leaderless organizations such as AA, eMule, Al Queda, and the internet. They are unstoppable because like starfish, if you cut them in half, each half will regenerate into a whole new starfish. AA just continues to grow wherever someone decides to start a group around the twelve steps. There is no spiderhead that can be cut off to stop it from growing. In order to move in a different direction a starfish arm must convince all the other arms to move in that direction. Hybrid organizations incorporate centralization as necessary to ensure trust and security, while maintaining decentralization to harness the contributions of the wider population. Skype is used as an example of a decentralized system that is revolutionizing the phone industry, P2P music sharing is changing the music industry and Craigslist, Ebay and Wikipedia have overtaken traditional ways of doing business and sharing information. Catalysts have the ability to bring people together around a shared ideology and then get out of the way to let it grow. The book really stimulated my thinking.