New York Times bestselling author Ori Brafman uses the metaphor laid out in his book of a starfish and a spider to illuminate unique business principles. A starfish is an organism without a central brain or any other cerebral hierarchy; each arm of the starfish can function independently. A spider, on the other hand, is fully dependent on its head for basic survival. Thus, when the spider’s head is cut off, it dies, but when an arm is cut off a starfish, not only does it survive, but it grows an entirely new arm.
What applies in biology applies equally in business. The distributed structures of starfish organizations allow them to function without a central authority. Their regenerative abilities make them nimbler in reacting to external forces. Ceding starfish networks and empowering employees to have more of a voice enables a large, hierarchical organization to be agile while still maintaining the necessary accountability to be effective.
Starfish Leadership does not advocate the adoption of a starfish structure in place of the hierarchy of a spider. Rather, we focus on the “combo special,” the starfish in the spider.
We help clients leverage the efficiency and flexibility of a starfish network while retaining the structure and order inherent in a spider organization.
“Profound ideas… Ori Brafman is someone I would always take the time to listen to."
— Gen. Martin E. Dempsey,
18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff