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Publisher's Summary

If you cut off a spider's leg, it's crippled; if you cut off its head, it dies. But if you cut off a starfish's leg, it grows a new one, and the old leg can grow into an entirely new starfish.

What's the hidden power behind the success of Wikipedia, craigslist, and Skype? What do eBay and General Electric have in common with the abolitionist and women's rights movements? What fundamental choice put General Motors and Toyota on vastly different paths? How could winning a Supreme Court case be the biggest mistake MGM could have made?

After five years of ground-breaking research, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom share some unexpected answers, gripping stories, and a tapestry of unlikely connections. The Starfish and the Spider argues that organizations fall into two categories: traditional "spiders", which have a rigid hierarchy and top-down leadership, and revolutionary "starfish", which rely on the power of peer relationships.

The Starfish and the Spider explores what happens when starfish take on spiders (such as the music industry vs. Napster, Kazaa, and the P2P services that followed). It reveals how established companies and institutions, from IBM to Intuit to the U.S. government, are also learning how to incorporate starfish principles to achieve success. This audiobook explores:

  • How the Apaches fended off the powerful Spanish army for 200 years
  • The power of a simple circle
  • The importance of catalysts who have an uncanny ability to bring people together
  • How the Internet has become a breeding ground for leaderless organizations
  • How Alcoholics Anonymous has reached untold millions with only a shared ideology and without a leader

The Starfish and the Spider is that rare book that will change how you understand the world around you.
©2006 Decentralized Revolutions, LLC (P)2007 Gildan Media Corp

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • Overall

Centralized and decentralized models

Starfish -- decentralized communities or organizations, like the Apache tribes, Alcoholics Anonymous, P2P music sharing communities. (Starfish because starfish has no heads; if you cut a starfish into two, both will grow into new starfish)
Spider -- traditional hierarchical organizations with strong central control.

This book describes the various aspects of Starfish organisations / communities, and how such communities can pose a threat to traditional Spider businesses. While acknowledging the importance of Spider organizations for efficient resource utilization, the book discusses how we can look out for the emergence of Starfish business models, and even capitalize on them.

This book will be an interesting introduction to the idea of decentralized models for listeners / readers unfamiliar with the centralized-decentralized dichotomy. However, I finished the book with a "so what" feeling. I did not feel there was any takeaway I could readily apply. Nonetheless, it did provoke my thinking about current operations in my organization.

The book also talks about hybrid organizations like Amazon and Ebay. These are traditional organizations that have managed to tap on a wider starfish-like community to generate value for their businesses.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

10,000ft Bungee Jump View

For those of you looking for precise methods and answers on how to change your business structure to incorporate a more de-centralized business system, this is not the book for you.

Having said that, if you are looking for a way to broaden your mind's eye view of how social structures directly and indirectly affect business and commerce in the past, present and future then this book will be an invaluable tool.

This book will really help set your mind racing and drawing colorations between the two types of structures in not just business but in all aspects of society. It is up to the reader to take the examples given, the pros and cons of the structures presented, what happens when the two structures go toe-to-toe and relate it to their specific business and industry.

I can tell you this though, if you read this book and grasp the concepts and your competition doesn't, then you will have a definite advantage in recognizing current and future opportunities that your competition would NOT even be aware of.

If for the above reason only, this is a MUST READ for any student of business.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Loved It

Academic technology organizations are "starfishes" - in that authority and knowledge are distributed - and that we are mission driven. Recommended to anyone who thinks about organizational effectiveness. This book fits beautifully within the genre of short works that communicate serious academic research by telling interesting stories and providing fascinating examples. We don't assign enough books like this in our college courses - thinking that since is a "popularizing" book it must therefore be "inferior". I'm starting to think that we've been too snobby....and that in privileging good writing and storytelling over total academic rigor we may be inhibiting our students from absorbing the central points.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Linda
  • Colorado Springs, CO, United States
  • 12-08-08

Wonderful insight into modern organizations

The Starfish and the Spider offers a new look at how organizations run and what can make them successful (or not). Also the outlook on different leadership styles is telling. The real life examples from contemporary history and the present day are fascinating. It's a great book for people who are interested in organizational behaviors and attitudes, how to motivate people, and lovers of history. This is a well written and well read audiobook.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Needs Editing

This would be an interesting book if its contents weren't so repetitive. I got bored and frustrated with it, and ended up not finishing it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wonderful Book! Must Read!

I have read a lot of organizational, management, leadership books recently and this has been one of the best. Very engaging stories told very well and well organized for a book about decentralization. So thought-provoking and interesting!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Misleading Title; So-So Text

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Skip all the first part. Most of it anyways--the bits that talk about the Apache, PETA, Napster, etc. So much of the book is wasted on things only marginally applicable to the main theme, at least what seemed to be the main thing--applying the leaderless approach to business. Also, holding up marginally legal/moral examples up as some of the prime examples wasn't a great strategy.

What could Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Spend more time on the business aspects, less on the general.

What does Sean Pratt bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He was very understandable/clear voiced. Good balance of tone. Easy to listen to.

Who do you think would benefit most from listening to The Starfish and the Spider?

I would only recommend a cliff's notes for this one. Too much text, not enough substance.

Any additional comments?

Saying they are "unstoppable" in the title and then explaining how they can be stopped is kind of silly. Also, they seem to have very limited applicability in business--the promotion of the book makes it sound revolutionary, but it's just not that insightful, IMO.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

under developed

The narrator was good, but the argument presented was incomplete. The book touts the benefits of decentralization while admonishing central control for most of it's content, but then just before the end brings up some exceedingly successful organizations that integrate both management philosophies.

I would have appreciated a more in depth view of both the advantages and disadvantages of centralization and decentralization with a discussion of the historical backdrop (i.e. how did we get to centralized control in the 20th century from decentralized nomadic tribes and what factors contribute to decentralization becoming more common now). This framework would have better facilitated a final chapter on how to best combine the features of both structures and lead to a more complete argument.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Extremely dry

Extremely dry The book itself was extremely dry, and it kept repeating itself over and over again. The only reason why listen to it was because my professor required it

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Eye opening and transformative

Most of my career has been spent in command, hierarchical organizations. This book opened my eyes up to a whole new organizational approach. It is one of those books that I had to listen to twice.

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Miles
  • 07-24-15

Open your mind to a new type of leadership

Would you listen to The Starfish and the Spider again? Why?

Yes, great stories and a wonderful metaphor of how a non-led organisation can change the world...

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Starfish and the Spider?

Cut of the spider's head it dies... cut the starfish in two... you get two starfishes

What does Sean Pratt bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Yes, very well read

  • Overall
  • Francine
  • 03-28-10

A MUST read

An outstanding book that gives some great insight into decentralised organisations. The authors give you some great examples of how this works in some businesses today.