In the compelling book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom present the case for decentralization as an agent of profit and social good. 

Many entities are decentralized, including our brains. There is no central command post in the brain, no single agent issuing orders, no one neuron that holds a particular memory (despite what Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind represented). Memory is distributed across networks of neurons. 
Likewise, there is great power in decentralized organizations. Some of these “starfish” organizations discussed in the book are the Apache, AA, Wikipedia, and more. A starfish has no centralized brain and command center. If you cut off the leg of a starfish it grows back. If you cut it in half you get two starfish. 
A spider organization is the traditional model with a CEO at the top who’s in charge. These organizations are good at doing some things but not so good at others. If you cut off the head of a spider it dies. 
If we look upon the starfish and the spider as a metaphor for the self, we can see clearly in to the Buddha’s concept of anatta or no-self. We tend to regard ourselves as spider organizations — there’s someone at the top who is in charge, a CEO, a president, an ego. But when the self is examined carefully as mystics have done for millennia and scientists have done for the past 100 years or so, there is no CEO to be found. What we regard to be self arises out of the aggregation and dynamic integration of different processes. 
We are starfish.
More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]

Good things come in small packages especially when it is The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy edited by the poet John Brehm and published by Wisdom. Wisdom has a habit of producing beautifully crafted books, packed with, well, wisdom! By way of disclosure, two of these books are mine (108 Metaphors for Mindfulness and […]

A surfer and a shrink, sounds like the start of a joke … walk into a bar … . What do they talk about? Turns out the surfer dude is an expert on fear, has even written a book about it and the shrink is a crack snowboarder. They’ve got a lot to talk about. […]

Stephen Batchelor: Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World contains twenty-five years of his writing. You may be familiar with some of these articles from his contributions to Tricycle and I recently enjoyed reading his article arguing for a Buddhism 2.0 in a Buddhist academic journal. This book contains three new contributions, making the book […]