The Starfish and the Spider, a business book by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, was published in 2006 to no attention at all in the political world. The subtitle, however, explains its relevance to the tea party model: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.
Traditional thinking, the book contends, holds that hierarchies are most efficient at getting things done. Hierarchies, such as corporations, have leaders who can make decisions and set priorities; chains of command to hold everyone accountable; mechanisms to shift money and authority within the organization; rules and disciplinary procedures to prevent fracture and drift. This type of system has a central command, like a spider's brain. Like the spider, it dies if you thump it on the head.
The rise of the Internet and other forms of instantaneous, interpersonal interaction, however, has broken the spider monopoly, Brafman and Beckstrom argue. Radically decentralized networks -- everything from illicit music-sharing systems to Wikipedia -- can direct resources and adapt ("mutate") far faster than corporations can. "The absence of structure, leadership, and formal organization, once considered a weakness, has become a major asset," the authors write. "Seemingly chaotic groups have challenged and defeated established institutions. The rules of the game have changed."
Sep 28, 2010
The starfish vs the spider
Jonathan Rauch on the Tea Party movement.