Leaderless organisations can be unstoppable

6392 reads

Wikileaks being Prosecuted and how naturally a stronger Whistle blower platform will emerge. All the force that the US government is using to shut down Wikileaks, possibly will only lead to the creation of even better platforms for whistle blowers. This is exactly what happened in the music industry, when the industry went after Napster, they did shut down Napster, but this lead to creation of even more decentralized peer to peer networks which are difficult to shut down. Ask teenagers, what percentage of them actually purchase music? Today there are opensource peer to peer file sharing systems like emule, with no centralised servers, any developer can pick up the code and maintain it, so whom will the music industry come after?


A similar path is emerging for the Whistle blowers, check openleaks.org , which now plans to create a way by which whistle blowers can safely provide documents to specific publishers that they wish to share information with.

Now what does this mean to business? Not the leaks but what is happening in this space. In the book “The Starfish and the Spider” Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom share how leaderless organisations can be unstoppable. They take us back to when the Spanish first came to South America. The small Spanish army was very quickly within 2 years able to destroy the Aztec civilisation, a prosperous civilisation which had existed for more that 1500 years. The reason they could do that so easily was that the Spanish army simply targeted the King and killed him. Without the head (leader) the whole civilisation collapsed.  The Spanish army repeated the same with the Incas, they then encountered the Apaches, who remained undefeated for more than 300 years.

The Spanish, as they had done before went after the leaders of the Apache clans and killed them, but every time they killed a Nant’an (Leader) another would emerge and take his place. And the more the Apaches were attacked the more they became decentralised. Nant’ans were spiritual and cultural leaders. This is what wikipedia says about these chiefs,
“The office was not hereditary and the position was often filled by members of different extended families. The chief's leadership was only as strong as he was evaluated to be—no group member was ever obliged to follow the chief. The Western Apache criteria for evaluating a good chief included: industriousness, generosity, impartiality, forbearance, conscientiousness, and eloquence in language.”  The traits of a decentralised society are flexibility, shared power, ambiguity, this made Apaches immune to attacks that would have destroyed a centralised society.

The Americans were finally able to overpower the Apaches by changing their social structure, by giving cattle to the Nant’an, once they had control over a scarce resource, their power shifted from symbolic to material, and they started fighting for the position, and started behaving more like chiefs of centralised organisations. The flat organisation structure became hierarchical and with power concentrated on the top and this broke down the Apache society.

Probably the best way to tame wikileaks would have been to provide official patronage to Julian Assange, commending him for building a platform that protects the identity of whistle blowers so well. Official patronage would have helped the US government have influence on them. Now that they are doing the opposite, look forward the the “whistle blower industry” get transformed like the music industry, very decentralised and difficult to prosecute.

Totally recommend that one reads “The Starfish and the Spider” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, on understanding and creating organisations like, skype, ebay to just name a few, which tap into the power of a decentralised structure.

Trending

116
adamgrant's picture

Most Personality Quizzes Are Junk Science. I Found One That Isn’t.

Most Personality Quizzes Are Junk Science. I Found One That Isn't."The MBTI is astrology for nerds." Say it with me again: personality types are a myth, traits are on a continuum, and the major dimensions include extravert-introvert, agreeable-
152
changethis's picture

What If Sellers Behaved as Leaders?

“It is time we start making a shift. Research shows you can make more sales by abandoning sales-y behaviors buyers resist and replacing them with leadership behaviors buyers desire. Sellers do extraordinary things when they stop pushing people to
211
adamgrant's picture

Is Curiosity As Good at Predicting Children’s Reading, Math Success as Self-Control? Study Says Yes

The joy of discovery matters as much as self-control, and matters even more for low-income children. We need to encourage kids to ask novel questions, not just give familiar answers.Ever since the landmark "marshmallow test" highlighted the
175
danielhpink's picture

PINKCAST: This is when to quit your job

Should you stay or should you go? After a few years at the same job, many of us begin asking that question.In the latest Pinkcast, former Wall Street analyst and venture capitalist Whitney Johnson offers the answer. You can watch the 136-second
184
changethis's picture

The Speed Trap: When Taking Your Time (Really) Matters

“Speed-for-speed’s-sake is about the most counterproductive* approach imaginable. (*I use counterproductive because it’s impolite to use “stupid”—which is what I really believe.)While we must indeed evolve and experiment rapidly, the process of
272
adamgrant's picture

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

This is a post about something I’ve been wanting to write about forever: careers. Society tells us a lot of things about what we should want in a career and what the possibilities are—which is weird because I’m pretty sure society knows very little
211
danielhpink's picture

WHAT TO LISTEN TO: Some audiobooks are more equal than others

“Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the popholes.”So begins Animal Farm, George Orwell’s classic novella. I’ve read Animal Farm many times. But now, for the first time, I’m
210
changethis's picture

Beyond Business Results: Achieving Sustainable Success

“For most of my career, I focused on my next professional opportunity rather than on my present situation. I was committed to serving patients and to helping my company meet its goals; I was always looking down the line to what was coming next. What
229
danielhpink's picture

WHAT TO WATCH: The Happiest Guy in the World

Two decades ago, Mario Salcedo retired from his job and went on a cruise. He never came back. Mario wasn’t lost at sea. For more than 20 years, he's been a permanent resident on Royal Caribbean Cruises. You read that right. “Super Mario” has