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Rod Beckstrom, critically acclaimed author of the business management book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, told NPR "he was surprised to learn his 2006 book was a hit with Tea Partiers — but that it made sense."
Beckstrom and his coauthor Ori Brafman, who met while attending Stanford's Graduate School of Business, got their book's title by contrasting the biological organization of a spider and a starfish with human comparisons:
The book's premise is drawn from biology, Beckstrom says. He points to the fact that a spider can survive without an arm, but it would die without its head.
"That's how we've looked at organizations in the West for the last several hundred years," Beckstrom says, "top-down, spider-like — there's a CEO, or there's someone in control.
"But the world is seeing a profusion of new organizations that are a lot more like a starfish."
The starfish model, he says, is decentralized. And if one of a starfish's arms is cut off, it can be regenerated.
Beckstrom points to Wikipedia, Craigslist and the Tea Party movement as examples of successful, leaderless organizations:
"The cohesion is around the very term 'Tea Party,' " Beckstrom says. "And the cohesion is held through the values — and it is values that hold large, decentralized networks together."
Based on his experience with how decentralized movements operate, Beckstrom is skeptical of the media's assertion that groups like FreedomWorks or "people with money and connections" created a manufactured, or "astroturf", movement:
"Are there some parties that may have come in and funded it, and helped to shape it or steer it? Absolutely," Beckstrom says. "Is that what gave rise to it? No."
The article closes with Beckstrom giving an encouraging forecast for the future:
"And I don't think this movement is going away for a while," he says. "It'll be with us for quite some years."