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

Our Price $ 21.21  
Retail Value $ 24.95  
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Item Number 409088  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   230
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.2" Width: 6.32" Height: 0.85"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 5, 2006
Publisher   Portfolio Hardcover
Age  18
ISBN  1591841437  
EAN  9781591841432  

Availability  0 units.

Alternate Formats List Price Our Price Item Number Availability
Hardcover $ 24.95 $ 21.21 409088
Paperback $ 16.00 $ 13.60 1548060 In Stock
Item Description...
Likening successful decentralized companies to a starfish that can survive and grow even if its parts are separated, a reference for organizational leaders draws on the examples of such companies as eBay, Sun, and GE to reveal the potential of alternate organizations.

Publishers Description
If you cut off a spider's leg, it's crippled; if you cut off its head, it dies. But if you cut off a starfish's leg it grows a new one, and the old leg can grow into an entirely new starfish.

What's the hidden power behind the success of Wikipedia, craigslist, and Skype? What do eBay and General Electric have in common with the abolitionist and women's rights movements? What fundamental choice put General Motors and Toyota on vastly different paths? How could winning a Supreme Court case be the biggest mistake MGM could have made?

After five years of ground-breaking research, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom share some unexpected answers, gripping stories, and a tapestry of unlikely connections. "The Starfish and the Spider" argues that organizations fall into two categories: traditional "spiders," which have a rigid hierarchy and top-down leadership, and revolutionary "starfish," which rely on the power of peer relationships.

"The Starfish and the Spider" explores what happens when starfish take on spiders (such as the music industry vs. Napster, Kazaa, and the P2P services that followed). It reveals how established companies and institutions, from IBM to Intuit to the US government, are also learning how to incorporate starfish principles to achieve success. The book explores:

* How the Apaches fended off the powerful Spanish army for 200 years
* The power of a simple circle
* The importance of catalysts who have an uncanny ability to bring people together
* How the Internet has become a breeding ground for leaderless organizations
* How Alcoholics Anonymous has reached untold millions with only a shared ideology and without a leader

"The Starfish and the Spider" is the rare book that will change how you understand the world around you.

Buy The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman & Rod A. Beckstrom from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781591841432 & 1591841437

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More About Ori Brafman & Rod A. Beckstrom

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ori Brafman is a lifelong entrepreneur. His adventures include a wireless startup, health food advocacy group, and a network of CEOs working on public benefit projects, which he co-founded with Rod Beckstrom. He holds a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford Business School.

Rod A. Beckstrom is a serial start-up entrepreneur. He founded CATS Software Inc, which he took public and has helped start and build other high tech firms. Rod has served on various private and nonprofit boards. He holds a BA and MBA from Stanford and is a Fulbright Scholar.


Ori Brafman currently resides in San Francisco, in the state of California.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Starfish? Spiders? Great Insight? Yes, its all here.  Oct 10, 2008
Starfish are great creatures. They crawl around and eat things, but do little else. Or, so one would think. The authors detail the uniqueness of starfish. In process, they detail how the attributes of these creatures metaphorically describe successful decentralized organizations. The principle is that there is no centralized control center in either leaderless organizations, or starfish. As a result, both are able to adapt to changes that would normally threaten other mechanisms. This is a lesson many organizations should learn because it allows them to adapt to a world that details little stability. All in all, a readable book with great insight.
Shallow and disappointing  Sep 29, 2008
The Starfish and the Spider was recommended to me and looked forward in diving into it. I love books on new organizational ideas. Though, I was very disappointed with this book, it doesn't contain much new ideas and instead is a shallow and black/white overview of much earlier work.

The book divides the world in either centralized or decentralized and looks at the two extremes for their advantages and disadvantages. It then tells stories (which are often interesting, though not always well-researched) about centralized vs decentralized ways of organizing. It talks about MGM vs P2P and about US vs Apache. Though, it draws somewhat simplistic conclusions from these stories, somewhat drawn out of context.

It then tries to combine the two extremes in a hybrid organization and gives eBay as an example.

Centralized vs decentralized organizations is an interesting topic, though there are more interesting books on this subject than this one. For example, Thomas Malone "The Future of Work" was more insightful than this book and it provides a huge bibliography for further research on this subject. Don't read this book, unless you do so for the stories.
Catch-22, Only Worse!  Sep 25, 2008
This book focuses on a new revolution you might have missed--what happens in movements without a hierarchy. The authors announce, "A lack of traditional leadership is giving rise to powerful groups that are turning industry and society upside down."

Cut off a spider's head and the poor guy is dead meat. Slice a leg off a starfish and the separated leg rejuvenates into a new starfish. There's a new sea change afoot of decentralized organizations (starfish) that are giving the top-down centralized organizations (spiders) a run for their money.

For an entertaining, but highly informative and important look at why the Apaches, the Quakers, Alcoholics Anonymous, Skype, eMule, Wikipedia, craigslist and other "open source" movements have changed and are changing the world, be sure someone on your team reads this book. You'll be dropping insights from the principles of decentralization into every conversation.

The nonprofit and ministry world is not unaccustomed to leaderless movements. Just check out the number of small group Bible studies most mornings at your local Starbucks or Denny's. Yet your vision will explode with new ideas and opportunities once you understand why when MGM (a spider) won their Supreme Court decision against Napster, they really lost.

Here are some conversation starters: 1) What is it about Wikipedia and craigslist--free services--that make them so appealing to millions of people? 2) Are there any centralized programs or services that your company, organization or denomination could decentralize and give away in the starfish mode?

Peter Drucker encouraged companies to "slough off yesterday"--one of the five balls in the "Results Bucket" of my book, Mastering The Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Non-profit. He said you must prune back to have capacity for the new opportunities coming your way. In the end, it's all about results. Some products, programs and services should be dropped--others might work well in the starfish mode. But focus on results, not leadership methodologies or systems.

Robert Byrne said, "There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start and so on..." Leaderless organizations do work--but usually those who lead them don't truly finish what they start. It takes incredible discipline--which is often the reason why some folks flee the bureaucracy in the first place--they don't like leaders and they themselves are not leaders. It's a Catch-22, only worse!

Why popularizing books should end up on college syllabi  Sep 21, 2008
Academic technology organizations are "starfishes" - in that authority and knowledge are distributed - and that we are mission driven. Recommended to anyone who thinks about organizational effectiveness. This book fits beautifully within the genre of short works that communicate serious academic research by telling interesting stories and providing fascinating examples. We don't assign enough books like this in our college courses - thinking that since is a "popularizing" book it must therefore be "inferior". I'm starting to think that we've been too snobby....and that in privileging good writing and storytelling over total academic rigor we may be inhibiting our students from absorbing the central points.
Good Book But....  Aug 31, 2008
I am a corporate director of human resources and continually look for material to use in professional development of our managers. I enjoyed this book and found it an interesting read that stimulated thought. However, as I read the book, I found I kept making notes in the margin where I disagreed with the book or at least, questioned the premise.

Over the decades, I had a colleague that worked for a large manufacturer that produced engine parts. This organization led a decentralized existence and was very proud of this accomplishment. The company was managed with those "picky" supervisor and managers hanging around sucking up the company profit. Another friend was associated with the clothing manufacturing industry and proudly proclaimed how his people worked in self-guided "cells". Years ago, both companies failed to maintain profitability and filed for bankruptcy.

I am reminded of the lessons in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't where the emphasis is on the humble manager versus the flamboyant leader type. The humble manager ensures the company is not about him or her but rather builds an organization that can weather most storms. For me, this is preferable to decentralized organizations. Some decentralization is needed for creativity and nimbleness. But as a general rule, give me the centralized with humble leadership.

Michael L. Gooch, SPHR Author of Wingtips with Spurs

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