Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Starfish and the Spider

This book, by Ori Brafman and Rod Bechstrom, subtitled "The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations" lauds decentralization and discusses how it is able to accomplish what hierarchical structures cannot.

The book discusses many examples of decentralization and makes a good case that decentralization offers many advantages. Among them are flexibility, creativity, and with enough decentralization immunity from death by decapitation — since there is no head to decapitate.

Having just finished David Sloan Wilson's Evolution for Everyone, I was hoping for a book about decentralization with a similar crispness. Unfortunately, this isn't it. Brafman and Bechstrom are relatively charming writers, but they aren't scientists. They are MBAs. And like MBAs they think in terms of case studies. Although examples and anecdotes are pleasant reading, and they are often informative and memorable, they don't provide solid guidelines about how nature works.

Nonetheless, the book is worth one's time. It's very easy reading — approximately 200 pages of very easy prose. Because I'm currently working in this area, I'll be writing additional blog pieces as I go through it a second time and attempt to make some of what they have to say a bit more rigorous.

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