Wednesday, July 18, 2007

***Starfish and the Spider by Yuri Brafman & Rod Beckstrom

An excellent book to help you understand the phenonom behind the success of Wikipedia, Craigslist, open source software, P2P networks, etc. There is much for managers, teachers and parents to consider here as well.

Starfish have an incredible quality to them: if you cut an arm off, they grow a new arm. And with some varieties, the cut off arm itself replicates into a new animal… They can achieve this magical regeneration because in reality, a starfish is a neural network. Instead of having a head – like a similarly shaped spider, the starfish functions like a decentralized network. Get this: for the starfish to move, one of the arms must convince the other arms that is a good idea to do so. The arm starts moving and then – in a process that no one fully understands – the other arms cooperate and move as well. P35

It’s not that open systems necessarily make better decisions. It’s just that they’re able to respond more quickly because each member has access to knowledge and the ability to make direct use of it. P39

In a decentralized organization, anyone can do anything. A part of a decentralized organization is akin to a starfish arm: it doesn’t have to report to any head of the company and is responsible only for itself. P48

Hallmarks of a starfish, decentralized organization.
1. There is no person in charge.
2. There are no headquarters
3. There is no head to chop off to kill it
4. There is no clear division of roles
5. If you remove a unit or piece of it, it is not harmed irreparably
6. Knowledge and power are not concentrated
7. The organization is not rigid
8. You can’t count the members exactly
9. Working groups are self funded
10. Working groups communicate directly, not through intermediaries
P 46-53

What matters most in an open system isn’t the CEO but whether the leadership is trusting enough of members to leave them alone. P67

Because open system communities don’t have hierarchy and structure, it’s hard to maintain rules within them; no one really has the power to enforce them. But such communities aren’t lawless. Instead of rules, they depend on norms… Members enforce the norms with one another, because they realize that if they don’t the norms, no one will. In doing so, members begin to own and embrace the norms as their own. As a result of this self-enforcement, norms can be even more powerful than rules. Rules are someone else’s idea of what you should do. If you break a rule, just don’t get caught and you’ll be okay. But with norms, it’s about what you as a member have signed up for, and what you’ve created. P90

In letting go of the leadership role, the catalyst transfers ownership and responsibility to the group. Without Mary Poppins, the family takes responsibility for itself. A catalyst isn’t usually in it for praise or accolades. When his job is done, a catalyst knows it’s time to move on. P93

A leader is best when people barely know that he exists; not so good when people obey and acclaim him; worst when they despise him. – LaoTzu, ancient Chinese proverb

Rather than suggesting ways for a person to change or fix their problem, acknowledge their experience: “So you’re unhappy with your job. That must be difficult.”… As you focus on listening and acknowledging, something amazing will happen. The person will find his own solution to the problem. “You know I’ll look for a new job.” When people feel heard, when they feel understood and supported, they are more likely change. A catalyst doesn’t prescribe a solution, nor does he hit you over the head with one. Instead he assumes a peer relationship and listens intently. You don’t follow a catalyst because you have to – you follow a catalyst because he understands you. P125

Catalyst vs CEO
A CEO is The Boss. He is in charge and he occupies the top of the pyramid. A catalyst interacts with people as a peer, coming across as your friend. CEOs lead by command and control. Catalysts depend on trust. CEOs are powerful and directive. Catalysts are inspirational and collaborative; they talk about ideology and urge people to work together to make the ideology a reality. CEOs create order and structure; catalysts thrive on ambiguity and apparent chaos. P129

In an unnamed Muslim country – the govt had created small circles to combat Al Qaeda. By day, the members are police officers or military experts. By night, the members go out and hunt Al Qaeda cells. The govt supplies them with ammunition and doesn’t ask any questions. The members of each circle don’t know how many other circles, nor who’s a member. Terrorist cells, meanwhile, don’t know what hit them. Human rights groups may object that the govt is funding an undercover killing spree. We won’t go into the political or moral implications of creating such circles, but one thing is for sure. The programs cost 1% as much as all other efforts, and works better than anything else the govt has tried. It works because these guys know what’s going on in their communities. They know who’s a terrorist. They know where they live. And they know how to get them. P157 Is the solution really better than the problem? This is frightening when you think of the ramifications.

Assume that Everyone wants to contribute, and that everyone has something to contribute somewhere. P169 Psychologically we all want a purpose and meaning.

A community wants to interact with one another. P171 We are social and need some recognition and validation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Brafman's first name is Ori, not Yuri (although I can see how that would be its likely pronunciation). If you change your header, please remove this post, as it will no longer make any sense.