The Starfish and the Spider

The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

by Ori Brafman , Rod Beckstorm

Number of pages: 240

Publisher: Portfolio

BBB Library: Corporate Success, Operations Management

ISBN: 9781591841838

About the Authors

Ori Brafman : Brafman is a lifelong entrepreneur. His adventures include a wireless start-up,


Rod Beckstorm : Beckstorm founded CATS software Inc., which he took public and has


Editorial Review

Like neuroscientists searching for the grandma cell, when we look at the world outside of our brain, we naturally seek order. We look for hierarchy all around us. Whether we’re looking at a Fortune 500 company, an army or a community, our natural reaction is to ask, “Who’s in charge?” We look for the spider: one head and eight legs; so, if you chop a spider’s head, it dies. 

Book Reviews

"The starfish represents decentralized “organizations” while the spider describes hierarchical command-and-control structures. In reviewing the book, the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum wrote that “[it has] not only stimulated my thinking, but as a result of the reading, I proposed ten action points for my own organization." irRevolutions

"The thesis for the book is neatly summarized in the title: there are two kinds of organizations, starfish organizations and spider organizations.Starfish are interesting beasts because if you cut off a leg, the starfish will grow a new one–and perhaps the amputated limb might grow a new starfish!" Wordpres

"Brafman and Beckstrom, a pair of Stanford M.B.A.s who have applied their business know-how to promoting peace and economic development through decentralized networking, offer a breezy and entertaining look at how decentralization is changing many organizations." Publishers Weekly

"The Starfish and the Spiderexplores what happens when starfish take on spiders and reveals how established companies and institutions, from IBM to Intuit to the U.S. government, are also learning how to incorporate starfish principles to achieve success." Barnes and Noble

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Wisdom to Share

But what happens when there’s no one in charge. It’s about what happens when there’s no hierarchy.

Yes, decentralized organizations appear at first glance to be messy and chaotic. But when we begin to appreciate their full potential, what initially looked like entropy turns out to be one of the most powerful forces the world has seen.

If you really want to centralize an organization, hand property rights to the catalyst and tell him to distribute resources as he sees fit.

The current ideology among young people is “Why pay for music and movies when I can download them for free?”

A decentralized organization stands on five legs. As with the starfish, it can lose a leg or two and still survive. But when you have all the legs working together, a decentralized organization can really take off.

When attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized.