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

Ori Brafman ·  240 pages

Rating: (3.8K votes)


“In open organizations, a catalyst is the person who initiates a circle and then fades away into the background.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“Not only did the Apaches survive the Spanish attacks, but amazingly, the attacks served to make them even stronger. When the Spanish attacked them, the Apaches became even more decentralized and even more difficult to conquer. When the Spanish destroyed their villages, the Apaches might have surrendered if the villages had been crucial to their society. But they weren't. Instead, the Apaches abandoned their old houses and became nomads. (Try to catch us now.)”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“Ideology is the glue that holds decentralized organizations together.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“The harder you fight a decentralized opponent, the stronger it gets. The labels had the power to annihilate Napster and destroy Kazaa. But waging that battle was possibly the worst strategic move the labels made. It started a chain reaction that now threatens the entire industry. As the labels go after the Napsters and Kazaas of the world, little programs like eMule start popping up.

Now, it's not that MGM and the other labels are stupid, nor are they alone. It's just that MGM hasn't stopped to fully understand this new force. What we've seen with the P2P companies is just the tip of the iceberg.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“The moment you introduce property rights into the equation, everything changes: the starfish organization turns into a spider. If you really want to centralize an organization, hand property rights to the catalyst and tell him to distribute resources as he sees fit. With power over property rights, the catalyst turns into a CEO and circles become competitive.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations



“when attacked, centralized organizations tend to become even more centralized.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“Decentralized systems, on the other hand, are a little trickier to understand. In a decentralized organization, there's no clear leader, no hierarchy, and no headquarters. If and when a leader does emerge, that person has little power over others. The best that person can do to influence people is to lead by example. Nevins calls this an open system, because everyone is entitled to make his or her own decisions. This doesn't mean that a decentralized system is the same as anarchy. There are rules and norms, but these aren't enforced by any one person. Rather, the power is distributed among all the people and across geographic regions. Basically, there's no Tenochtitlan, and no Montezuma.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“But without a Montezuma, how do you lead? Instead of a chief, the Apaches had a Nant'an-a spiritual and cultural leader. The Nant'an led by example and held no coercive power. Tribe members followed the Nant'an because they wanted to, not because they had to. One of the most famous Nant'ans in history was Geronimo, who defended his people against the American forces for decades. Geronimo never commanded an army. Rather, he himself started fighting, and everyone around him joined in. The idea was, "If Geronimo is taking arms, maybe it's a good idea. Geronimo's been right in the past, so it makes sense to fight alongside him." You wanted to follow Geronimo? You followed Geronimo. You didn't want to follow him? Then you didn't. The power lay with each individual-you were free to do what you wanted. The phrase "you should" doesn't even exist in the Apache language. Coercion is a foreign concept.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“The forces that motivate jpgm to write reviews are the same ones that inspire people to edit Wikipedia articles: everyone wants to contribute, and everyone has something to contribute somewhere.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“The Nant'ans were crucial to the well-being of this open system, but decentralization affect more than just leadership. Because there was not capital and no central command post, Apache decisions were made all over the place. A raid on a Spanish settlement, for example, could be conceived in one place, organized in another, and carried out in yet another. You never knew where the Apaches would be coming from. In one sense, there was no place where important decisions were made, and in another sense, decisions were made by everybody everywhere.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations



“Nevins explained that the traits of a decentralized society-flexibility, shared power, ambiguity-made the Apaches immune to attacks that would have destroyed a centralized society.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“Let's see what happens when a coercive system takes on an open system. The Spanish (a centralized body) had been used to seeing everything through the lens of a centralized, or coercive, system. When they encountered the Apaches, they went with the tactics that had worked in the past (the take the gold and kill the leader strategy) and started eliminating Nant'ans. But as soon as they killed one off, a new Nant'an would emerge. The strategy failed because no one person was essential to the overall well-being of Apache society.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“But Welch's approach benefited GE because it made each unit accountable and did away with inefficiencies. The business rules across the company were: be number one or two in a market or get out, and generate high returns on investments. If a business unit failed in either of these areas, it was sold. Welch's method ensured that each unit was being run profitably, while allowing unit heads significant flexibility and independence. The plan worked. GE's market value skyrocketed. Valued at $12 billion in 1981, it was valued at $375 billion twenty-five years later.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“At the core of what happened with the Apaches and with AA was the concentration of power. Once people gain a right to property, be it cows or book royalties, they quickly seek out a centralized system to protect their interests. It's why we want our banks to be centralized. We want control, we want structure, we want reporting when it comes to our money.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“This is the first major principle of decentralization: when attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations



“Representing the first of two types of hybrid organizations, eBay is a centralized company that decentralizes the customer experience.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


“A hybrid approach led to eBay's success, but it also created tensions. People are willing to trust one another when it comes to user ratings, but in other situations they want the safeguards that are possible only with a command-and-control structure.”
― Ori Brafman, quote from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations


About the author

Ori Brafman
Born place: Israel
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