Spiders are creepy. They must be. After all, arachnophobia – the fear of spiders – is one of the most common phobias people suffer.
But, if you’re a large, centralized organization – or even a smaller centralized organization looking to get large – you’re the spider. And your true worry ought to be starfish. At least that’s the central theme of Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom’s outstanding The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.
In Brafman and Beckstrom’s view, most centralized organizations mirror the biology of a spider, with the brain and other important bits all located in one spot, controlling the many legs of the organization. Kill the central bit and the organization dies. By contrast, starfish don’t have a central bit. Try to cut one in half and it regenerates, leaving you with two starfish (starfishes?). Icky, I know, but that’s nature for you. More to the point, that’s the nature of decentralized organizations. Organizations as diverse as eBat, Alcoholics Anonymous and al Qaeda have thrived due to this distributed nature, while many of their centralized competitors have not.
For large organizations, Brafman and Beckstrom offer valuable insights into how to address the threat of starfishes nipping at your heels – or whatever it is that starfish do. And for startups, the authors provide thought-provoking ideas on how to compete with your larger, spider-like competition.
Pick up a copy of their book. It may not cure your arachnophobia. But it just might help you scare your competitors.
Full Disclosure: I am an Amazon.com affiliate and the above links contain my affiliate ID. However, I have received no compensation for this review and purchased my review copy at its retail price.
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