Most helpful positive review
Being a Futuristic Organizational Leader
on October 18, 2012
Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom are both authors, entrepreneurs, and MBA graduates from Stanford. Brafman is not only interested in thinking and writing about leadership and organizational dynamics, but he also is a practitioner who has put many of his principles into practice. For Beckstrom, his areas of specialty are cybersecurity, global issues, and organizational strategy and leadership. Furthermore, he has diverse leadership experience that ranges from being a CEO to working for the US Homeland Security.
The Starfish and the Spider is a compelling book that uses the symbolism of a starfish and a spider to describe the importance of decentralization in life, culture, and economics.
The thesis is that every organization needs to move towards decentralization, in some manner or form, if they are to not only exist, but also thrive in the future – in other words, the rules have changed.
Spanning across the book, the authors outline eight principles of decentralization, which they use to explain their thesis:
1. “When attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized” (Location 290)
2. “It’s easy to mistake starfish for spiders” (Location 415)
3. “The intelligence is spread throughout the system” (Location 467)
4. “Open systems can easily mutate” (Location 474)
5. “Because the decentralized organization mutates so quickly, it can also grow incredibly quickly” (Location 489)
6. “As industries become decentralized, overall profits decrease” (Location 534)
7. “Put people into an open system and they’ll automatically want to contribute” (Location 825)
8. “When attacked, centralized organizations tend to become even more centralized” (Location 1524).
Upon explaining these principles, the authors end by addressing how an organization can embrace both decentralization and centralization along a continuum, along with ten projections for how organizations need to operate in order to thrive in the future.
The genius of this book is that the authors recognize who their primary audience is – spider organizations. Although they favor decentralization, they make sure not to alienate their primarily spider audience by proposing the concept of a decentralized sweet spot. So my primary question is, how do I help my centralized organization, Beulah, find its decentralized sweet spot? “The decentralized sweet spot is the point along the centralized-decentralized continuum that yields the best competitive position” (Location 2094).
This was an easy and engaging read, illustrating a very important concept to thrive as an organization into the future. Thus, I give this book a 5 out of 5.