Saturday, September 03, 2011

Is Learning More Like the Decentralized Starfish?

I'm obviously VERY late to this party. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations was published in 2006. I'm just now reading about it from a blog post at The Hacker Chick Blog - The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.
Check out these videos of the authors talking about the big idea within The Starfish and the Spider.
Ori Brafman - Starfish and Spider Keynote at TRADOC
Rob Beckstrom - The Starfish and the Spider

While I was watching the videos and checking out the book's web site I couldn't help but wonder about education. I'm actually always wondering about training and education, and so that shouldn't surprise you. But how does the idea of decentralized networks play out in higher ed for example? I don't think its surprising to anyone that there is a massive bubble swelling in higher ed. So, what happens when smart people begin to see that getting the knowledge they need to succeed in life does NOT require a degree? Kind of the same way that musicians are discovering that they don't really need a record company to make, record, publish, and sell their music.But there is also concern in corporate training departments. With social media enhancing human networks and flattening the org chart, some wonder if there will still be a need for a formalized training department that too often mirrored the structure and logistical requirements of academic institutions. So, if the academic bubble bursts what happens to the corporate university or the training department? Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, do any Fortune 500s still even have a corporate university?

I don't have an answer to any of these questions. Stumbling across The Starfish and the Spider has simply got me thinking of centralized vs. decentralized organizations again. I've seen the pendulum swing from one side to the other several times during my corporate life. I still remember thinking how crazy it was that leadership just couldn't make up their minds and stick with one or the other.What do you think? What have you experienced in the past 10-20 years? How is corporate eLearning changing?


Eric Hunter said...


I actually just read an article in this week's The Economist about how countries that use a decentralized governance model for their schools are acheiving much better results.

Great article, and totally in line with what you are thinking.

Brent Schlenker said...

That's a great story! Thanks for the link. I may need to do a followup post.