The Starfish’s Message to Birds Eye


A few months back, when I was engaging Birds Eye in a deep strategic planning process, a friend reminded me of what it means to create a culture inspired by a starfish versus a spider. This metaphor is the basis of the book The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. I admit that I have not read this book, but I have been spending time recently pondering the relationship of starfish to Birds Eye in my own metaphorical mental jungle gym. I will also admit that sometimes I discover more from reading the reviews of a book on Amazon than reading the actual book. And in that rabbit hole of review hopping, I found the following comment from a woman named Gail Taylor from years back. She stated: “I have a childhood memory of building a go-cart. Every kid in the neighborhood was involved. Who was in charge? Whoever had the right answer in the moment of the next right thing to do. Hands, hearts, minds worked together, one idea building on another. It was an emergent experience in every sense of the word. The go-cart was more beautiful and functional than any one of us could have built alone.”

Ahhh…and there it is. The summary that possessed the insight I was in search of: An emergent experience. This concept is at the very heart of Birds Eye’s work in the world.  On a recent retreat that was designed to be self-guided in nature, I, as the leader, also had built in the opportunity for us to be self-guiding in nature. And as a participant and I explored the hidden nooks and crannies of a collection of shoreline rocks, we began to discover family upon family of starfish. As our adventure-nested-within-an-adventure unfolded, we naturally exchanged roles as leader and follower, instructor and student. We then shifted into the shared role of being students in the classroom of the oceanic teacher stretched out before us. It was a gift to us both, two over-committed entrepreneurs on the beach on a Tuesday morning, trusting that this would be “time well spent”.

Today, reflecting on this experience serves as a guide as I determine what Birds Eye Adventures will look like in the future.  And so the question I am left with is this: How do we engage in our work in ways that offer permission to ourselves and our clients to surrender to the emergent experience and conspire with the ebb and flow of natural world?

I am clear that my best client work over the years has taken place when I am in a learning partnership with my clients, and opportunities to pioneer, surrender, witness, and navigate emerge for each of us throughout.  Thank you, Starfish of the World. (And yes, I know that might not be what the book is really about but I enjoyed the meandering path to here). I look forward to discovering who shows up around the bend with “ the next right thing to do” in the moment. I can sense your footsteps or flight path emerging.

Annie Price