The Spider and Starfish — the unstoppable power of leaderless organisations.

This book has been highly significant to my own understanding of movements and particularly creating movements in today’s ever-changing world.

The book uses the metaphors of the starfish and the spider. The spider signifies organisations that are centralised, controlling, hierarchical and all based around the head. If the spider lose its head, it dies straight away. Whereas Starfish (although I’ve never actually tried this), if it was to lose its head, the remaining tentacles each continue to grow and produce a new starfish.

The Starfish represents more organic movements that grow virally, that are decentralised, use crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, develop empowering facilitative leadership and use exponential digital technologies — where leadership is distributed and power is given away. In these movements everyone will feel that they are leaders, or feel that they are pioneers, or feel that they are able to be creative and explore new ideas and will become self motivated learners who fully own their lives and development.

Max Weber, the sociologist, described the spider organisation as representing hierarchical control and manifesting leadership styles that are characterised by command and compliance.

The author uses examples from recent business history like the story of the development of Wikipedia, to illustrate a starfish entity and movement. The book is greatly biased towards the up-and-coming starfish world. Since it was written over 10 years ago now, lots of the ‘words of prophecy’ have actually come true as we see more and more hierarchical organisations struggling in today’s world and needing to take on more starfish characteristics in order to survive. The flexible and lean brand-new starfish start-ups have been able to quickly grow, quickly scale and in places overtake the dated, hierarchical, control-based spider organisations.

Surprisingly, the author then goes on in the final chapter to expand the need for some element of spider within the new starfish movements. There is talk about starfish movements struggling to sustain themselves in such a liquid world, where they actually run out of steam, run out of resource or run out of goodwill. The author talks about the need for a slight touch of spider in the recipe for today’s perfect organisation. Yes we need decentralised leadership, yes we need everyone to feel like they are creative, leaders and pioneers but we also need at times a touch of structure and stability.

‘you definitely need lots of starfish with a touch of spider’

This relationship between spider and starfish could be represented as a spectrum — at one end your starfish organisation, at the other your spider organisation. The author then asks each one of us to place ourselves on the spectrum and to explore whether that’s where we should be or not (for our context, for our target market and for the next few years?) whether we need to be moving further towards the new starfish world or whether we still need a touch, a slight touch, of spider in our movements — your contextual sweet spot !

- an easy read with a great use of two metaphors — perhaps now a little dated and also overly simplified but significant in my journey towards Movement Leadership.

Buy Book Here- https://goo.gl/2RtVjX

Transform your business or cause into a MOVEMENT


Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on April 12, 2018.