Brief Review of The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman

Friday Musings

starfish_5_v1Title of Book: The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman, (Portfolio, 2006)

Overview: The book is about “what happens when no one is in charge” (p.5). It is about empowering people by eliminating hierarchies that stifle personal responsibility and initiative. It is about the counter-intuitive notion that decentralized system have a power to endure and effect change.

Critique: Excellent and thought provoking book. I loved the illustrations from Apache history and Napster. Many of the principles and suggestion are relevant to ministry and empowering the faithful to own their priesthood as believers. At the same time, the book seems to advocate that modern culture is now placing greater demands on organizations to be leaderless, to have no governing authority, and to have almost no corrective impulse.

But the Bible is not anti-leadership. It is pro leader, pro leadership, recognizes the need for authority (that is not coercive) and correction (that is loving and mission oriented).

Two Applications:

  1. Find ways to move mission from the leaders to the led. The more the led own the mission, the better for the mission.
  2. Push all the functions of ministry that you can to the edges so that leadership can be decentralized and more life-context related.

Best Quotes: “When you give people freedom, you get chaos, but you also get incredible creativity. Because everyone tries to contribute to the community, you get a great variety of expression.” (p. 81.)

“A catalyst develops an idea, shares it with others, and leads by example.” (p. 94)

“Catalysts are bound to rock the boat. They are much better at being agents of change than guardians of tradition. Catalysts do well in situations that call for radical change and creative thinking. They bring innovation, but they’re likely to create a certain amount of chaos and ambiguity. Put them into a structured environment, and they might suffocate. But let them dream and they’ll thrive.” (p. 131)


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