I finally finished up The Starfish and the Spider while on vacation…and it is terrific! I highly recommend it. For anyone who is interested in catalyzing a movement; seeing something grow beyond yourself or just better understanding the power of decentralization – this book is a must! The subtitle oversells the “leaderless” part but I still like it: “The Unstoppable Power Of Leaderless Organizations”.
The title refers to the central metaphor of the book comparing a starfish and a spider: while a starfish and a spider have similar shapes, their internal structure is dramatically different. A decapitated spider inevitably dies, while a starfish can regenerate itself from a single amputated leg. In the same way, decentralized organizations are made up of many smaller units capable of operating, growing and multiplying independently of each other, making it very difficult for a rival force to control or defeat them.
In the Starfish and the Spider they give seven principles of decentralization. Below I have listed these seven principles with some brief commentary. Think about your church and/or the movement or denomination of which you are a part as you review theses principles:
- When attacked, a decentralized organization becomes even more open and decentralized. (This makes it nearly impossible to defeat or stop a decentralized organization or movement.)
- It’s easy to mistake a starfish for a spider. (This is why we mistake churches of small groups that are really churches with small groups.)
- An open system doesn’t have central intelligence, the intelligence is spread throughout the system. (In decentralized organizations much, if not most of the new learning is on the edges)
- Great systems can easily mutate. (The church was created as a starfish organization that could adapt and contextualize itself to any culture.)
- The decentralized organization sneaks up on you. (That is why you didn’t hear about Facebook till there were already 30 millions members!)
- As industries become decentralized, overall profits decrease. (This is why I will never ever be rich!)
- Put people into an open system and they will automatically want to contribute. (All people were created by God with a desire to use our gifts to serve others and fulfill the dream of God. When people are put into a healthy functioning church they will not have to be coerced into serving, they will want to serve!)
So, tell me what you think about your church, movement or denomination of which you are a part after reviewing theses principles.