WITH A LONG TRAFFIC delay availing an opportunity yesterday to think about the evolution of Limerick's un-meeting series (Limerick OpenCoffee with Conn holding the mic), I listened to Mitch Joel wax eloquently about the starfish and the spider. Speaking in Montreal, Canada, he was talking about the way we network in Limerick, Ireland. I spent the first decade of my working life in a starfish organization, one with a purple water fountain and designated colours of ink for people with brass on their shoulders. Its organisational focus on structure and procedure caused me to crash out with anarchy coursing through my mind. The opposite is happening in Limerick OpenCoffee and the social dynamic there would intrigue most business consultants. Then there's the book.
The Starfish and the Spider tells stories about centralised, decentralised and hybrid organizations. The title refers to those life forms seen commonly crawling on the ground and how you can kill them. If you want to kill a spider, cut off its head. You cannot cut off the head of a starfish as it does not have one. If you cut off the leg of an starfish, it will grow another starfish. Nature suggests why decentralised organizations like Al-Qaeda have always been around and why terrorist groups with cells will always run a step ahead of institutionalised police forces and large government departments set up to defeat terrorism. Brafman and Beckstrom tell these stories well, offering examples of the most potent characteristics of decentralised organisations. The book featured in a Greenfields Report [4 minute MP3 file] on the Six Pixels of Separation podcast.