The Starfish and the Spider

starfish and spider ori brafman rod a beckstromThe Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, 3/5

Using real-life examples, Brafman and Beckstrom explore the contrasting characteristics of centralized and decentralized organizations.  The term “centralized” is associated with traditional for-profit businesses, which usually have hierarchical organization, official headquarters and utilize the top-down method of decision making. In contrast, “decentralized” entities are idealogy- and community-driven, featuring resiliently chaotic structures and utilizing bottom-up decision making.

The souped-up magazine article cum research paper style is very popular for books of this genre and for good reason–it is entertaining and easy to read.  This book is no exception and has the added benefit of being on an interesting and relevant topic.  However, I feel that the authors spent rather too much time describing the obvious and comparing apples with oranges; it seems clear from the examples that centralized and decentralized organizations have very different functions and goals, so it doesn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time comparing them (the MPAA doesn’t aspire to be The Pirate Bay and vice versa).  A small portion of the book was spent more usefully, in my opinion, analyzing the conflict between these two styles of organization, and near the end of the book, the authors finally look at what aspects of decentralization can be successfully employed by more traditional businesses.

[Why I read it: my dad wanted to know what I thought about it before reading it himself.]

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2 comments

    • omniRambles

      If you’re interested in the topic and want something light/entertaining to read, then I would suggest giving it a try. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother. It’s not really a useful or enlightening book.

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