The Starfish and Spider, the role model for decentralized organizations

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations is a 2006 book by Ori Brafman, and Rod Beckstrom is an exploration of the implications of the recent rise of decentralized organizations such as Wikipedia and YouTube. The book contrasts them to centralized organizations, such as Encyclopedia Britannica, using compendia of knowledge as examples. The spider and starfish analogy refers to the biological nature of the organisms, starfish having a decentralized neural structure permitting regeneration. In addition to giving historical examples of decentralized organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the Apaches and analyzing their nature in contrast to centralized organizations, the book considers the conflict between centralized and decentralized organizations.

Starfish and the Spider, an early take on decentralization

The concept of a Decentralized Autonomous Organization is an idealistic outcome of the crypto-tech revolution, going from centralized to decentralized networks and finally distributed networks.  The Starfish and the Spider concept was a role model for thousands of distributed organizations like MobileMonday, the powerful think tank for mobile service development in more than 70 countries

from centralized to decentralized and distributed networks
The organization of the future will be decentralized, as decentralization brings with it increased productivity and quality of life.
- MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Thomas W. Malone | Future of Work 

Communication in decentralized organizations is asynchronous

With a distributed team comes distributed timezones. One rule to live by on a remote team is that no decisions are made last minute. If you have an item that requires some input and decision making, then you are sourcing feedback well before the second you need to ship it. You can’t expect immediate answers because your co-workers inevitably don’t work the same hours as you. While this may seem like extra work, asynchronous communication actually ends up being more efficient. This is because meetings are pre-planned, often weekly standing times when everything is discussed as a team.

Our preferred implementation roadmap gives any stakeholder a clear overview of who’s doing what & why and at the same time it helps us to focus on what matters most. With collaboration tools like blossom and slack among others, we can efficiently manage the whole process in one place, built with simplicity in mind.

Objectives, rules, and tools for decentralized organizations

Objectives for decentralized organizations

Well defined and communicated objectives ensure the mutual value exchange between partners are:

  • Objective 1: Drive Product Value.
    A relationship that enhances an end product to provide value to existing users/customers and/or attracts new ones
  • Objective 2: Drive Reach.
    A relationship that attracts new customers/users by leveraging another audience of the customer base. Because it provides more value to existing customers/ Users. / Channel Partnership - When 2 Companies with similar user profiles form a relationship, where one company introduces the other product or service to their audience
  • Objective 3: Drive Brand Value.
    A relationship that enhances the brand- positive brand association

Rules and tools for decentralized organizations

Well defined and communicated rules for value-based partner engagements are:

Rule 1: Market sizing is a precondition

Rule 2: Fair process & tools for decentralized organizations

  • Video conferencing with Zoom is the cornerstone of an effective decentralized organization
  • Project status with Trello shows progress, status updates, and resources related to a project.
  • Slack eases participation from more people because it’s location agnostic and asynchronous.
  • Mandatory Google Suite helps decentralized teams move forward faster
  • Meetings are pre-planned, No decisions are made last minute.
  • Parties remain independent but contribute to agreed objectives.

Rule 3: Transparent monitoring

  • We set up proper monitoring
  • We agree to report best available metrics
  • We use them as unbiased success barometer
  • We conduct post-mortem after any activity
  • We compile a written analysis of the metrics

axelhoehnke

I have served media and tech firms from Israel, US and Scandinavia for 20+ years. My sector expertise is Digital Platforms, especially Mobile & Connected Services.