REVIEW: The Starfish and the Spider

Image by Jinho.Jung via Flickr

The starfish and the spider are used as a metaphor of decentralized and  centralized organizations.  The  book analyzes centralized and decentralized organization in light of  the anatomy of the Starfish and the Spider.

The book starts with the introduction of the eight principles of decentralization:

  1. When attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized
  2. It’s easy to mistake starfish for spider
  3. An open system doesn’t have a central intelligence
  4. Open systems can easily mutate
  5. The decentralized organization sneaks up on you
  6. As industries become decentralized, overall profits decrease
  7. Put people into an open system and they’ll automatically want to contribute
  8. When attacked, centralized organizations tend to become even more centralized
Till this moment, I was ok with the book! I started to really enjoy it when the author started to discuss the strategies to breakdown a decentralized organization which are:
  1. Change the ideology
  2. Centralized the decentralized organization
  3. Decentralize your organization!
After then, the author discuss how to bring the best of decentralized and centralized organization in what he called The Hybrid Organization. The Hybrid organization strikes the balance between centralization and decentralization to position itself in the sweet spot. Keeping in mind that the sweet spot, is changing and one should continuously observe this. To help the reader, the author illustrated the factors that affect the move of sweet spot toward centralization or decentralization.  He called them the New World Rules:
  1. Dis-economies of the scale
  2. The Network Effect
  3. The power of chaos
  4. Knowledge at the edge
  5. Everyone wants to contribute
  6. Beware the Hydra response
  7. Catalyst rule
  8. The values are the organization
  9. Measure, monitor and manage
  10. Flatten or be flattened
Finally, I believe it was an interesting reading, the language is simple and straight forward, the flow of ideas is very smooth and, most importantly, the book is rich with real life examples from the history and the present, as well as, different industries.

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