Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Starfish and Spider reflections

Each time I re-read The Starfish and the Spider I gain new insights, often from seemingly throw-away comments that turn out to have profound implications. If you've not read the book, read the first chapter and buy it!

Explaining their metaphor, the authors note "If you cut off a spider's head, it dies; but if you cut off a starfish's leg, it grows a new one, and that leg can grow into an early new starfish. Traditional top-down organizations are like spiders, but now starfish organizations are changing the face of business and the world."

There are links to some of my old blog posts on the key topics below. And here's a useful tool from the book. Analyze your organisation and see where on the scale of spider vs. starfish you fit:
Spider Starfish
Someone is in charge No one is in charge
Headquarters exist

There are no headquarters
Thump its head, then it dies

Thump its head, it survives
There's clear role division

Amorphous role division
Take out a unit, harm the whole

Take out a unit, there's no harm
Concentrated knowledge & power

Distributed knowledge & power
Organization is rigid

Organization is flexible
Organization funds the units

Units are self-funded
Can count the participants

Can not count the participants
Communicates through intermediaries

Direct communication between units


See also