Conclusions after reading The Starfish and the Spider

In the previous post, I have reviewed The Starfish and the Spider. The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. The topic of this book is very close to my research interests investigated in this blog, as the notions of social networks and decentralized organizations (the starfish) are very similar. So, here are the gems from Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom’s book that I find most relevant:

Different notion of leadership. The authors describe decentralized organizations as leaderless, in the sense that they lack the command-and-control leadership. However, they also describe two roles which are indispensable for growing a decentralized organization: the catalyst and the champion. Catalysts and champions set the vision of an organization, define values, engage and motivate members – these are all attributes of great leaders. My conclusion is that social networks cannot be governed in command-and-control style, but they can be influenced by people who adopt a collaborative leadership style.
Willingness to contribute. This is a common observation across a range of decentralized organizations – people are eager to contribute if they are part of an open system.
Values (Ideology). Every decentralized organization is built on a foundation of certain ideology. What I believe is meant by ideology, are the values shared among the organization’s members. Values are the glue that holds people together and drives them to contribute to the common cause.
The Catalyst. According to the authors, every open organization starts with a catalyst – the person who initiates a circle and then moves into the background, giving away control to the members. Based on some observations and interviews with several catalysts, they define features of a typical catalyst:

  • Genuine Interest in Others
  • Loose Connections
  • Mapping (Connecting People)
  • Desire to Help
  • Passion
  • Meet People Where They Are (Empathy)
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Trust
  • Inspiration
  • Tolerance for Ambiguity
  • Hands-Off Approach
  • Receding

The Champion. The champion represents another key role in starfish organizations, next to the catalyst. While catalysts envision the organization and inspire the members, champions actually implement the ideas and drive execution. Champions are key in gaining a critical mass of any movement, as they engage new members and “sell” the catalysts’ vision.

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2 Responses to “Conclusions after reading The Starfish and the Spider”


  1. 1 Ryan Lanham June 23, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Writing a dissertation on what you just wrote. Good stuff!

    Congratulations on joining the club! Your summary is excellent. Will start following your blog. Thanks,

    Ryan Lanham

  2. 2 Darek June 23, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for your kind words Ryan!

    Let me know where I can read any of your work, I would be very interested in it!

    Cheers, Darek


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