DHS National Cyber Security Center head has focus on leaderless organizations

March 29th, 2008

The appointment of Rod Beckstrom as the new head of the DHS National Cyber Security Center is interesting, if somewhat controversial. See, for example, the article Cybersecurity’s New Guard in BusnessWeek.

“The Bush Administration named Rod Beckström — entrepreneur, author, and decentralization expert — head of the National Cyber Security Center on Mar. 20. … Beckström, 47, is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, a former derivatives trader, and a champion of conflict resolution in Africa. He’s better known as the founder of business collaboration software provider Twiki.net and as an author specializing in the agility of decentralized organizations than for connections inside the Beltway or expertise in cybersecurity.”

What’s somewhat controversial is his lack of a strong background in security or computer and communication technology — he’s an MBA. What’s interesting is his perspectives on and enthusiasm for decentralized and “leaderless” organizations, as articulated in his 2006 book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, which I’ve not read, btw.

“Brafman and Beckstrom, a pair of Stanford M.B.A.s who have applied their business know-how to promoting peace and economic development through decentralized networking, offer a breezy and entertaining look at how decentralization is changing many organizations. The title metaphor conveys the core concept: though a starfish and a spider have similar shapes, their internal structure is dramatically different—a decapitated spider inevitably dies, while a starfish can regenerate itself from a single amputated leg. In the same way, decentralized organizations, like the Internet, the Apache Indian tribe and Alcoholics Anonymous, are made up of many smaller units capable of operating, growing and multiplying independently of each other, making it very difficult for a rival force to control or defeat them.”

In this age of decentralized information and communication systems and asymmetric warfare, I think Beckstrom might have a positive impact in his new position.