Ori Brafman Profile

  • An internationally known thought leader and entrepreneur, Brafman is the father of the distributed business network model, which has served as the basis of the culture at Netflix, Facebook's user acquisition strategy, and the U.S. Army's successful campaign against Al Qaeda.

  • The best-selling author of four books, Brafman is famous for his work The Starfish and the Spider, an in-depth exploration of decentralized organizations and how they have become the economic powerhouses of the 21st Century.

  • As founder and president of the consultancy and training firm Starfish Leadership, Brafman’s insights have been sought by numerous Fortune 500s, the NBA, the Pentagon, and the Obama White House.
  • Multiple best-selling author, Ori Brafman is one of the most influential thought leaders on growth in the Digital Age. His definitive work on distributed networks, The Starfish and the Spider, has served as the foundation of the Pentagon’s campaign to counter Al Qaeda, the structure of the Tea Party, Facebook’s user acquisition strategy, and the culture of Netflix.

    Brafman is a distinguished lecturer at U.C. Berkley’s Haas School of Business. As the founder and president of Starfish Leadership, he’s advised and trained the U.S. Military, the Chicago Bulls, the Obama White House, Google, Microsoft, YPO, and many other government organizations and Fortune 500s.

    Brafman combines his unique ideas on leadership, teamwork, and innovation with the wisdom and experience of retired four-star General Martin E. Dempsey in his latest collaborative book, Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership. They argue that an organization’s survival and success hinges on the extreme inclusion of team members, partners, and the public. Leaders in the NBA and Netflix have called Radical Inclusion “a playbook for leadership in the twenty-first century” and “An indispensable read for anyone in a leadership position today.”

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      Ori Brafman is a multiple New York Times best-selling author. His seminal work, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, is cited by the U.S. military as the foundation for a successful campaign to counter Al Qaeda. Its concepts have been implemented by Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government, and it is considered the basis for blockchain technologies. Ori’s recent bestselling book, Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership, examines today’s leadership landscape and argues that inclusion is no longer a “nice-to-have”, but a strategic imperative in the digital world.

      Born in Israel and raised in Texas, Ori specializes in cultural transformation and unique approaches to problem solving. His ideas have been applied by Amazon, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, the Chicago Bulls, the San Francisco 49ers, Facebook, Family Business Network, and PWC. He has advised all branches of the U.S. military, the Obama White House, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Since 2010 U.S. Army generals have been required to complete Ori’s leadership curriculum.

      Ori is a Distinguished Teaching Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business where he lectures on improvisational leadership and artificial intelligence. He leads an intensive strategic broadening seminar between UC Berkeley and the U.S. Army and created a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Haas School of Business and the U.S. military’s National Defense University.

      Ori’s media appearances include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, CBS, MSNBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox News, ABC News, BBC, National Public Radio, CNBC, CNN, and C-SPAN. He has presented before audiences at Fortune 500 companies, the White House, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, the Association of Financial Professionals, the Organization of Nurse Executives, NATO, YPO, and others. His published books include Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership; The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations; Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior; Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do; and The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success.

      Ori is founder and president of Starfish Leadership and co-founder of the Fully Charged Institute, which combines Ori’s work with that of Tom Rath. The Institute focuses on leadership and well-being and helps organizations improve performance and gain competitive advantage in an era of new business models. Ori holds partnerships with Second City Works and ExecOnline to create new leadership programs for corporate audiences. Ori holds a BA in Peace and Conflict from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

    Ori Brafman Speaking Videos

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    Ori Brafman's Speech Descriptions

    Business and leadership keynote speaker, Ori Brafman is a pioneer researcher and advisor on building decentralized business network models. The multiple best-selling author shows leaders and their teams how to transition to a decentralized business model and create a sustainable system for innovation that will drive growth and prosperity for the coming decades. Brafman’s presentations are an interactive ride and must-see guide for anyone aspiring to lead.

    Brafman has advised all branches of the U.S. military, the Obama White House, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, NATO, and YPO, among others. His media appearances include the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC News, BBC, National Public Radio, CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox News, C-SPAN, and AP Video.

    From The Starfish and the Spider to Radical Inclusion: How Inclusive Networks Determine Agility, Adaptability, Power, and Success

    When Starfish networks decide to embrace inclusion as a strategic imperative, they hold the power to change the face of industry. Drawing on research from his best-selling books and examples from the U.S. military to blockchain technologies and Fortune 500 companies, Ori shows how organizations that embrace decentralization and inclusion function more effectively, with the agility and adaptability necessary in today’s rapidly changing world. He demonstrates how even the largest, most hierarchical organizations utilize Starfish principles to harness the power of distributed networks, and argues that leaders should develop an instinct for inclusion in order to build and maintain trust and power. Ori leaves the audience with practical takeaways for leveraging inclusive networks toward organizational success.

    Inclusive Leadership and Teams

    Inclusion is no longer a “nice-to-have”; it’s a strategic imperative. In this presentation, Ori shares stories from his new best-selling book and beyond that bring to life the evidence that he and his Radical Inclusion co-author, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.(R) Martin Dempsey, have nearly nothing in common—except a deep and unwavering belief that the hard problems we face in our businesses, at the national level, and internationally can be solved with better leadership.

    Drawing on examples from business, academia, government, and the military, Ori will show:

    ▪ How the speed and accessibility of information create digital echoes that make facts vulnerable
    ▪ How the fear of losing control is pushing us toward exclusion and why leaders should develop an instinct for inclusion
    ▪ How to create networks of inclusion within the organization
    ▪ How to leverage inclusion to improve communication and gain better knowledge from all edges of the organization
    ▪ How to create ongoing processes to ensure inclusion continues to be leveraged toward organizational success

    Ori provides audiences with stories, practical takeaways, and the tools necessary to address today’s real leadership challenges.

    Decentralized Networks

    When you cut off the head of a spider, it dies. But when you cut off the arm of a starfish, it grows one back. In this classic presentation, Ori leads the audience back in time to demonstrate how throughout history, organizations operating without a central head win out over centralized ones.

    Drawing on examples from the U.S. military to the Tea Party to Fortune 500 companies, Ori will show:

    ▪ How decentralized organizations act and make decisions with greater agility and adaptability
    ▪ How today’s business world is utilizing decentralization to increase effectiveness
    ▪ What proven, simple methods can be adopted to introduce decentralized networks within top-down structures
    ▪ How to create ongoing processes to ensure decentralization efforts continue over time and throughout the organization

    Ori provides audiences with an understanding of how even the most hierarchical organizations can introduce pockets of decentralization for better business results. Audiences leave with the practical tools and takeaways necessary for creating decentralized networks within their organizations.


    How do we leverage the power of decentralized starfish networks and practice radical inclusion to foster innovation, trust, and agility? During this informative and interactive presentation, Brafman presents his unique perspective on leadership with compelling examples of its organizational effectiveness and provides executives and managers specific tools for empowering every member of the company to drive innovation and agility throughout the organization.

    The Workplace of Tomorrow

    How can large organizations prepare for an uncertain world? Based on Brafman’s work with the most senior officials at the Pentagon and executives from Fortune 500 companies, this presentation provides a strategy for tomorrow and the next generation. Brafman reveals how organizations can drive growth and profits by allowing contained chaos, unstructured space, and disruption the chance to flourish, generating new ideas that trigger innovation across the organization.


    Psychological forces pull us into irrational behavior, but we can also use them to our benefit. Filled with examples and video clips, this talk shows us how psychological forces affect decision-making and presents several implementable ways to avoid making irrational decisions.

    Problem-Solving Workshops

    Every 1- and 2-star general in the U.S. Army has taken Brafman’s “Agile and Adaptive Leadership” course. Conducted directly by Brafman, these deep-dive workshops are available in half-day, 1-day, and 2-day formats. They focus on solving a specific problem faced by the organization and combine interactive presentations, customized exercises, and concrete, actionable next steps.

    Radical Inclusion Seminar - GEN(R) Martin E. Dempsey and Ori Brafman

    Leaders today face challenges that have always existed but also challenges that are new, dynamic, complex, and cannot be ignored. This seminar will systematically examine today’s leadership environment to determine what’s new and what’s not. The instructors will share experiences from the highest levels of government and business to illuminate these challenges and to propose leadership principles for addressing them.

    In addition, the seminar will provide participants with opportunities to practice the application of these principles through customizable exercises and group experiences. Participants will walk away not only with a stronger understanding of the current and future environment, but with the practical skills necessary for grappling with the implications of leading in our rapidly evolving world.

    The environment in which we now lead. In the first part of this session we will discuss changes in the leadership environment. We will discuss the distinction between complex and complicated, the accessibility and speed of information, the vulnerability of facts, the influence of digital echoes on both leaders and followers and the competition for trust and confidence in which leaders now find themselves.

    The enduring leadership principles. In the second part of this session, drawing on examples from both the instructors’ experiences and current events, we will draw out three enduring and important leadership principles: Give Them Memories (Belonging), Make it Matter (Meaning), and Learn to Imagine (Learning from Weak Signals).

    The emerging leadership principles. Once again drawing upon both experience and current events, we will draw out three emerging and increasingly important leadership principles: Develop a Bias for Action, Empower Subordinates to Co-Create Context, Understand How to Relinquish Control to Preserve Power. We will discuss how these principles must be supported by certain leadership instincts including Listen, Amplify, and Include. We will conclude this session with a discussion of the concept of Radical Inclusion and why it is the necessary pragmatic leadership response to change, complexity, speed, accessibility, and affordability.


  • The Ace: Demonstrating the unseen challenges of being a leader
  • 5 for 25: Quickly finding solutions and fostering innovation from the edges of the network
  • Break-Outs: Developing tangible next steps to solve a real problem
  • The Fish Bowl: An inclusive, facilitated conversation with instructors and participants
  • Role Playing: Seeking presidential decision on Afghanistan troop levels
  • Role Playing: Implementing SECDEF directive on women in service


    This customizable seminar can be delivered in half-day, full-day, or two-day versions for groups of any size with an option to kick-off the event with a dinner, moderated discussion, and Q&A session with the instructors the night prior to the event.

  • What People are Saying about Seeing Ori Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Ori is an exceptional thinker who has the unique ability to motivate people to envision their better selves. He is smart, witty, and someone who can imagine the future in a way people can relate to.”

    – Jim Kaitz, CEO/President of the Association for Financial Professionals

    “Everyone should have the chance to listen to Ori speak at least once in their life. He’s one of the smartest, most knowledgeable, and most intellectually curious people I’ve ever met, and his ideas are changing the world as we know it.”

    – Kevin Brilliant, Chicago Bulls

    “Ori has the ability to address complex and controversial topics with a great depth of understanding, while demonstrating a disarming and respectful grace that only comes when grounded in self-confidence and courage.”

    – Rick Thomas, President & CEO, The STRIVE Group

    “Recently we had the pleasure of Ori speaking at several DaVita events to our senior leadership team…His very unique perspective left the audience with a lot of thoughtful questions and ideas to help us think about our organization differently. Ideas generated from his talk are already reverberating around our company… We couldn’t ask for more from a keynote speaker!”

    – Jim Greenwood, Vice President, Wisdom, DaVita, Inc.

    “Ori delivered a presentation that resonated with every generation and group represented within our 6,500 person organization, and his talk has been referenced and reviewed repeatedly as we move forward with the vision of the Wing. We are proud to include Ori within our network and call him a member of the 4th Fighter Wing team. We are eternally grateful for his investment in our development as an organization.”

    – Col R. Ryan Messer, Vice Commander, 4th Fighter Wing, U.S. Air Force

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    Books by Ori Brafman:

    Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership

    Named by The Washington Post as one of the 11 Leadership Books to Read in 2018

    Forty-one-year Army veteran General (Ret.) Martin Dempsey and forty-one-year-old UC Berkeley Associate Professor Ori Brafman have been friends for almost ten years. Though they have almost nothing in common, their collaboration has produced a powerful message. Their new book, Radical Inclusion, examines today’s leadership landscape and describes the change it demands of leaders.

    Dempsey and Brafman persuasively explain that today’s leaders are in competition for the trust and confidence of those they lead more than ever before. They assert that the nature of power is changing and should not be measured by degree of control alone. They offer principles for adaptation and bring them to life with examples from business, academia, government, and the military.

    In building their argument, Dempsey and Brafman introduce several concepts that illuminate both the vulnerability and the opportunity in leading today:

    • Radical Inclusion. Fear of losing control in our fast-paced, complex, highly scrutinized environment is pushing us toward exclusion―exactly the wrong direction. Leaders should instead develop an instinct for inclusion. The word “radical” emphasizes the urgency of doing so.

    • The Era of the Digital Echo. The speed and accessibility of information create “digital echoes” that make facts vulnerable, eroding the trust between leader and follower.

    • Relinquishing Control to Preserve Power. Power and control once went hand in hand, but no longer. In today’s environment, control is seductive but unlikely to produce optimum, affordable, sustainable solutions. Leaders must relinquish and share control to build and preserve power.

    The principles discussed in Radical Inclusion are memorable and the book is full of engaging stories. From a young vegan’s confrontation with opponents in Berkeley to a young lieutenant’s surprising visitor during the Cold War, from a reflection on the significance of Burning Man to a discussion of challenges faced in the Situation Room, Radical Inclusion will provide you with leadership tools to address real leadership challenges.

    The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success
    In The Chaos Imperative, organizational expert and bestselling author Ori Brafman (Sway, The Starfish and the Spider) shows how even the best and most efficient organizations, from Fortune 500 companies to today’s US Army, benefit from allowing a little unstructured space and disruption into their planning and decision-making.

    Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

    A fascinating journey into the hidden psychological influences that derail our decision-making, Sway will change the way you think about the way you think.

    Why is it so difficult to sell a plummeting stock or end a doomed relationship? Why do we listen to advice just because it came from someone “important”? Why are we more likely to fall in love when there’s danger involved? In Sway, renowned organizational thinker Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Rom Brafman, answer all these questions and more.

    Drawing on cutting-edge research from the fields of social psychology, behavioral economics, and organizational behavior, Sway reveals dynamic forces that influence every aspect of our personal and business lives, including loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses), the diagnosis bias (our inability to reevaluate our initial diagnosis of a person or situation), and the “chameleon effect” (our tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us).

    Sway introduces us to the Harvard Business School professor who got his students to pay $204 for a $20 bill, the head of airline safety whose disregard for his years of training led to the transformation of an entire industry, and the football coach who turned conventional strategy on its head to lead his team to victory. We also learn the curse of the NBA draft, discover why interviews are a terrible way to gauge future job performance, and go inside a session with the Supreme Court to see how the world’s most powerful justices avoid the dangers of group dynamics.

    Every once in a while, a book comes along that not only challenges our views of the world but changes the way we think. In Sway, Ori and Rom Brafman not only uncover rational explanations for a wide variety of irrational behaviors but also point readers toward ways to avoid succumbing to their pull.

    The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
    If you cut off a spider’s head, it dies; if you cut off a starfish’s leg it grows a new one, and that leg can grow into an entirely new starfish. Traditional top-down organizations are like spiders, but now starfish organizations are changing the face of business and the world.

    What’s the hidden power behind the success of Wikipedia, craigslist, and Skype? What do eBay and General Electric have in common with the abolitionist and women’s rights movements? What fundamental choice put General Motors and Toyota on vastly different paths?

    Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom have discovered some unexpected answers, gripping stories, and a tapestry of unlikely connections. The Starfish and the Spider explores what happens when starfish take on spiders and reveals how established companies and institutions, from IBM to Intuit to the U.S. government, are also learning how to incorporate starfish principles to achieve success.

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