Horizontal Networks

"In a decentralized organization, there's no clear leader, no hierarchy, and no headquarters. If and when a leader does emerge, that person has little power over others. The best that person can do to influence people is to lead by example. [This is called] an open system, because everyone is entitled to make his or her own decisions." Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider

In this unit, we will delve deeper into the context, and we'll try to anticipate some aspects of the future.

New generations invite us to rethink hierarchy, leadership, command and control – we are prompted to reflect on the motivation and purpose of following our leaders and on the possible learning that can come therefrom. It has become clear that new forms of organization are necessary, and among them, communities – and their multiplier effect – have already begun to take a key role.

Horizontal structures and crowdsourcing will consolidate as productive, value-generating organizations. Francisco looks into this topic on the following video and quotes the book The Starfish and the Spider, where authors Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom produce an in-depth analysis of this phenomenon.

The starfish represents the decentralized network. It has no head and its main organs are replicated on each arm, in such a way that, in the event of being cut, not only does it regenerate but it also creates a new starfish. Opposite to the starfish, the spider – representing hierarchy – dies when its head is cut off.

Some powerful principles of decentralization

  1. When attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized. In contrast, when centralized organizations are attacked, they react by becoming even more centralized.
  2. An open system doesn't have a central intelligence; instead, intelligence is spread out throughout the entire system.
  3. Open systems can easily mutate.
  4. As industries decentralize, earnings are usually reduced, but loyalty and growth increase.
  5. Place people in an open system and they will automatically want to contribute.

Suggested additional resources

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Articles & Blogs:



Exercise (optional)

Discuss with your classmates. Are you aware of this trend towards a more horizontal type of leadership?  Regarding the topic at hand, what have you experienced as an employee or entrepreneur in your previous and/or current work environment/s? What learnings and thoughts can you share from reflecting on these types of organizations?

A friendly reminder: one of Scalabl’s networking rules is not to discuss about politics, religion, or any other issues that might spark unsolvable arguments and conflicts. Always keep in mind that our network is preciously diverse. If you haven´t already, this is a good time as any to go back to Unit 1 and read through our Code and rules of conduct.