The Resiliency of the Table

Whilst platforms have reinvented themselves throughout the Covid season, from physical to virtual, our table has remained right where it has always been, albeit for now with less people around it. Looking at our table this morning I sense it’s permanence, it’s immovability and immutability. It’s defiant stand against the turbulence of time.

The table’s resilience is linked to it’s location. It’s at the centre of our home usually surrounded by family and friends, the most resilient of places and enduring of relationships.

I’m sure over the past season our tables have looked very different to the way they used to, with as much home schooling as home cooking. Nevertheless our tables remain an anchor in the storm, the stability of our times.

Considering resilience in an entirely different sense, I’m reminded of “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations” by Brafman and Beckstrom - one of my favourite books on organisational design, although I don’t like the subtitle!

The starfish represents the decentralised (not in my opinion leaderless!) organisation. The starfish has no head, and its major organs are replicated throughout each arm. If you cut it in half you get two starfish. The spider describes hierarchical (though I’d caution against viewing this word in the pejorative sense) command-and-control structures. The Spider represents the centralised organisation. A spider is controlled by its head. Cut off its head and it dies.

When attacked, centralized organizations tend to become even more closed and centralised.

When attacked, a decentralised organization tends to become even more open and decentralised.

Centralised organisations tend to restrict thinking to the few.

Decentralised organisations don’t have central intelligence; it’s distributed throughout to the many.

Centralised organisations struggle to transform.

Decentralised organisations find it easy to transform.

People in centralised organisations tend to wait to be told what to do.

People in decentralised organisations instinctively want to contribute.

For these reasons the starfish, the decentralised organisation, where leadership is distributed, is far more resilient than the spider, the centralised organisation.

I can’t help thinking the platform and the spider and the table and the starfish are related.

Mark Lawrence is a leadership and culture consultant