March 3, 2014

Rejuvenate Like A Starfish

Good video on centralization vs. decentralization.

A spider is the model of a centralized organism or organization--cut of the head and the thing is dead. 

But a starfish is the epitome of one that is decentralized--if you cut off one of the arms (it doesn't have a head) of a Blue Linckia starfish, it just grows another one. And if you cut off all five arms, it grows five new starfish. 

So when it comes to organizations, do you want one like a spider, where all power, decision-making, and talent is concentrated at the top, and if you lose your senior executive(s), you've lost the innovation or operational effectiveness of the entire organization (think what happened when Apple lost Steve Jobs as an example)? 

Or do you want to be an organization that is more decentralized (less hierarchical) like the Starfish--where talent is widely dispersed and work is delegated to the many within. Here the organization's very survival is not threatened when something happens at the top or to somebody. 

In most cases, there is no perfect spider or starfish organization, but more of a hybrid model, where some functions (like HR, finance, communications) are centralized and others are decentralized (based on specific business expertise). 

To me the main point here is that an organization is made up of many individuals, and everyone in the organization is valuable; no one person can do everything and we should leverage each person according to their strengths and help them on their weaknesses. This gives each individual and the organization the best chance of rejuvenation and survival. ;-)

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