The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

Narrated by:
Sean Pratt

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
August 2011
5 hours 33 minutes
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.
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Susan H.

long but good.

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Beth P.

Absolutely brilliant inspiring and really interesting it’s given me a very different perspective and lots of new ideas

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Ashrut A.

If I had to explain the book concisely, I'd say apply the following quote in business, and you've got yourself the summary of the book - "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." Essentially, the book talks about the power of decentralization in large businesses, and how it can prove to work wonders for its growth. The author takes up case studies of various industries that were once top in their field, and ones which rose up from nothing. How some succeded with the help of decentralization, and how the others died, not being able to take up the challenge. But then again, sticking to one model isn't the best strategy, so the way of taking up a hybrid structure is explained. The key learning from the book is that the markets are everchanging, and even if one thing works for someone, the other might work better, and the businesses have to be open to even infrastructural changes in order to thrive in the industry. I picked this book up on a whim, and I can't be happier with the decision. "Highly insightful" would probably be the best way to describe it. Even though the text is dated now (since it was published in 2006), the principles still apply, and if you do a bit of your own research within the current industry scenario, you can find many more interesting things than the book enlists.

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A good approach to get you to understand how flat organization works and their potential. This book came ot me on the right time while I'm designing a new business model for a leader less organization. Worth reading!

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