Starfish and Spiders - Highlights

Starfish and Spiders - Highlights

Highlights by David Willden

This book is thought provoking! While some believe the authors are a little “far-fetched” the book is on to something big. There is a phenomenon occurring that will lead to important changes.

Communication breakthroughs have always significantly impacted mankind. Printing, improved transportation, newspapers, morse code, telephone, televisions and now web based technologies are have changed the world.

For many years, information was shared through a limited number of channels. Intentional or not, information was figuratively pushed out by a small number of people. Free collaboration technology enables people today around the world to find content they seek, to learn what they desire, to connect people with similar interests around the world, and to share thoughts and knowledge.

Decentralization has been lying dormant for thousands of years. But the advent of the Internet has unleashed this force, knocking down traditional businesses, altering entire industries, affecting how we relate to each other, and influencing world politics. …The rules of the game have changed.  Starfish and Spiders - Highlights


Starfish and Spiders - Highlights


Decentralization Trends

Peter Drucker played a key role in creating momentum towards decentralization. He was fascinated by what really made businesses tick.

In 1946, he published a book titled the Concept of the Corporation. The book began to change how the world viewed good management. He shared the results of his “decentralization study” at General Motors.

At the time, GM was an extremely successful company. The typical management model around the world was a simple one, the CEO give orders, and others followed. At GM, things were changing. Drucker looked at how a decentralized management model was beginning to unfold at GM. He ascribed some of their successes this model and encouraged GM to continue down this path.

Ironically, GM choose to misinterpret Drucker’s intentions. Pride kept them from listening to Drucker for decades. The Japanese, on the other hand, were intent on learning all they could from Peter.

Is History the Best Indicator of the Future?

Throughout history, societies were organized around hierarchies. Self-interest or “selfishness” of the best manipulator was generally all that seemed to matter. There were always those that wanted to rule and conquer. Hierarchies were used to control and carry out orders. On the other hand, hierarchies were needed to defend against those determined to conquer. Will this trend continue? It depends. It is important to consider that societies throughout history have almost always been governed by the interests of a few. It this isn’t guarded against, it will occur at the expense of everyone.


Starfish and Spiders - Highlights 

Book Highlights

The book focuses on what happens what there is no one in charge. The trend today is towards decentralization, empowerment and contribution. In many areas, traditional leaders are being replaced by powerful networks that are changing the rules.

What is the Spider? 

The spider represent an hierarchical organization. It is a simple creature. If its legs are cut off it can survive, but if its head is cut off, it dies. This is an example of a traditional, hierarchal organization. If the spider (CEO) wants to move, its head notifies its legs and it begins to move in the desired direction

What is the Starfish? 

The starfish represents decentralization. Decision-making isn’t made by the CEO but is distributed throughout the network. A starfish has five legs but no head. If the starfish wants to move somewhere, each individual leg makes the decision to move. If a leg of the starfish is cut off, it grows a new leg. A starfish represents an organizational structure that is flexible and adaptive.   Starfish and Spiders - Highlights

A starfish represents decentralization. It has five legs but no head. Its organizational structure is flexible and adaptive. A CEO is not required. There are five legs in a starfish organization:

  • Circles: Circles are non-hierarchal structures where participants are all equal.
  • Catalyst: Catalysts create momentum and then the group takes control
  • Ideology: Group participants share a common passion about an idea or philosophy
  • Pre-Existing Networks: Many groups are formed because of preexisting networks.
  • Champion: Catalysts create momentum, but champions nurture and build the networks.

Examples of Starfish Networks

  • Craigslist: Craig Newmark initiated Criagslist in early 1995. The people you use craigslist largely run it. It was developed by listening to people and providing the infrastructure to support what was heard.
  • Wikipedia: Wikipedia was launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, using wiki technology introduced by Ward Cunningham.

The New Rules of the Game 

The authors contend that there are new networking and economic models evolving, based on:

  • Diseconomies of scale: Economies of scale was key to competitive advantage. Today, smaller and more flexible firms are more capable of changing quickly to meet needs.
  • The network effect: Having a substantive network in place was difficult. With the internet, the cost of building a network is time.
  • The power of chaos: Chaos can lead to problem solving and creativity. People will have the ability to do what they please.
  • Knowledge is on the edge: Decentralized groups that are on the line are able to provide hands-on knowledge.

Everyone wanting to contribute: For example, Wikipedia.

Shared Traits of Catalysts - a Key Role

  • Genuine interest in others
  • Loose connections (A wide variety of contacts)
  • Mapping (Deciding how new people best fit into the social network )
  • Desire to help
  • Passion (A cheerleader that keeps everyone engaged)
  • Meet people where they are (Promoting change in a positive way)
  • Emotional intelligence (Help members to find an emotional connection)
  • Trust (Believing in and trusting that members are equal)
  • Inspiration
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Hands-off approach
  • Receding (Pulling back with things up running)

What Does this Mean for Us? 

In time it could mean everything to you. Knowing how to become a participant and a valuable member of networked communities is important. Know how to start or foster communities may be important. For communities or networks to be successful there should be:

  • A shared, motivating purpose
  • A deep respect for each member of the community
  • Open but respective dialogue focused on the purpose
  • Win/win opportunities for everyone involved Starfish and Spiders - Highlights

Strategy and Spiders - Highlights 

Starfish and Spiders - Highlights