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The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations [Hardcover]

Ori Brafman , Rod A. Beckstrom
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Nov 2006 1591841437 978-1591841432
Cut off a spider's head, and it dies; cut off a starfish's leg and it grows a new one, and that leg can grow into an entirely new starfish. Traditional top-down organisations are like spiders, but now starfish organisations are changing the face of business and the world. What's the hidden power behind the success of Wikipedia and Skype? What does Ebay have in common with the women's rights movement? The authors have discovered some unexpected answers, gripping stories and a tapestry of unlikely connections.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (2 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591841437
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591841432
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.1 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 389,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Likely to become a classic 18 Jan 2008
I found this to be utterly engrossing. The metaphor of the starfish vs. the spider is bound to enter common parlance - the same way as "Tipping Point" did. This book is a sober but enlightening account of the issues of centralisation ("spider") vs. decentralisation ("starfish"), as well as suitable mixtures of the two.

The book also shows why there's a great deal at stake behind this contrast: issues of commercial revenues, the rise and fall of businesses, and the rise and fall of change movements within society - where the change movements include such humdingers as Slave Emancipation, Sex Equality, Animal Liberation, and Al Quaeda.

There are many stories running through the book, chosen both from history and from contemporary events. The stories are frequently picked up again from chapter to chapter, with key new insights being drawn out. Some of the stories are familiar and others are not. But the starfish/spider framework casts new light on them all.

Each chapter brought an important additional point to the analysis. For example: factors allowing de-centralised organisations to flourish; how centralised organisations can go about combatting de-centralised opponents; issues about combining aspects of both approaches. (The book argues that smart de-centralisation moves by both GE and Toyota are responsible for significant commercial successes in these companies.)

The book also spoke personally to me. As it explains, starfish organisations depend upon so-called "catalyst" figures, who lack formal authority, and who are prepared to move into the background without clinging to power. There's a big difference between catalysts and CEOs. Think "Mary Poppins" rather than "Maria from Sound of Music". That gave me a handy new way of thinking about my own role in organisations. (I'm like Mary Poppins, rather than Maria!)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring alternative organizational models 23 Aug 2008
This easy-to-read book explores de-centralized organizations and how they (sometimes) outperform conventional, centralized ones.

While the book offers some interesting examples to back up its claims, one would be ill-advised to quickly jump into conclusions. Centralized organizations are just as necessary as decentralized ones and we probably need both in our complex, post-industrial, information-rich society.

Still, this books makes its case for a new wave of so-called 'leaderless' organizations where member contribution and overarching, internalized ideologies are key. A timely reminder that successful organizational models are as diverse as human beings and their cultures.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The centre vs the periphery 10 Nov 2008
By Dr. Nicholas P. G. Davies TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
This is a useful book. It's a meditation on the age old problem of how to get the centre and the periphery of an organisation working together.

The centre may well have a clear idea of what needs to be done, and what standards and specifications it wants.(command and control) The people who actually do the work (the periphery) will know whether what the centre wants is realistic, and whether they are willing to help the centre achieve its goals. The very act of central command and control tends to turn people against it.

This book helps us to see why so many organisations in UK are struggling, and are losing staff loyalty rapidly. The UK NHS is a prime example of an over centralised monolith that is scared to decentralise, and where the periphery largely holds the centre in contempt.

This book shows us the future of how organisations will need to work if they want to succeed in balancing some central direction with the energy and enthusiasm of their workers.

It's a a very useful book, well written using a simple easily understood metaphor.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
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.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No so great 19 Nov 2009
By Edward
On the first page of the book and the back cover are a lot of praises for this book. But most of them are exaggerating the importance of this book. The reason is that although it seems the book is about organisations, in fact it is mainly about communities and movements (craigslist, Wikipedia, Animal Liberation Front etc.), many of them connected to the digital world. On page 154 you can read that 'the moment you introduce property rights into the equation, everything changes: the starfish organisation turns into a spider'. This means that the purely decentralised model of a starfish is not applicable to for profit companies. Of course the central - decentral debate is very relevant to companies, but much has been written about it in other books as well. And much has been written also on new business models making use of the internet. So if you don't read this book, you will not miss important new insights.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read! Recommend it to anyone who is looking ...
Great read ! Recommend it to anyone who is looking to transform their organisation from top down structure to self managed teams and the power that will have on engagement !
Published 1 month ago by karen harbisher
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're a catalyst…'ll love this
Its great to read a book that resonates with your work and values so directly - It provides great theoretical and grounded insights and for any reader - its likely to spark... Read more
Published 10 months ago by E. Cross
3.0 out of 5 stars Good place to start.
This has been a very helpful book for me. I have been looking at how business structure has changed and will continue to change due to access to information. Read more
Published 18 months ago by chillphil
4.0 out of 5 stars On networked organisations
About networked organisations.

Using some case-studies (like Napster-alikes) the book highlights the differences between spider and star fish type organisations. Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2011 by Pete Burden
2.0 out of 5 stars Content is great - rough cut of pages was poor
The book was advertised as being new, but the pages were rough cut, meaning that some of them were up to 5mm short, so book looks scruffy. Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2010 by Mr. Roger Lane
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good, just...really really good
If you are looking at this book, you've probably been recommended it by someone, and if you're reading the reviews, you just need convincing that its as good as they said it... Read more
Published on 11 Jan 2010 by A. Dodwell
4.0 out of 5 stars Unorganized leadership
Normally we think of projects and processes as a result of organized leadership. But sometimes the it's the idea not the leader that make things work. Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2009 by L. Bitsch-Larsen
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief Review of the Starfish and the Spider
This book is highly recommended for leaders of organisations of all kinds. The sub-title in regard to Leaderless Organizations is a misnomer -all organisations have leaders... Read more
Published on 10 July 2009 by K. J. Edmonds
5.0 out of 5 stars The Starfish & The Spider...WOW!
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations Wow, what an amazing book. I ate up every word of it. Read more
Published on 9 Mar 2009 by Soleira Green
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