What can we learn from pirates about being more creative?

This post first appeared as a postcard in my role as beach writer at PurpleBeach.com

What can we learn from the golden age of piracy? That was the question posed by Kyra Maya Phillips, co-author of ‘The Misfit Economy’. Sadly, Kyra began by debunking the myth that pirates spent their time making people walk the plank in shark infested seas, had peg legs and said things like, ‘Aye,Aye me hearties’. Instead, pirates were early adopters of hierarchy-free enterprise. All crew members received an equal share in the booty, except for the Captain who rarely got more than a double share. Compare that to modern CEOs!

The quartermaster, responsible for dividing the booty,was also the main recruiting officer. According to Kyra, many merchant sailors who had been press ganged into joining the navy, hoped to be raided by pirates as their only chance to escape the tyranny of their own ship captains. No wonder the punishment for piracy was death by hanging!

Despite pirate crew members’ reputation for being ‘mad, drunk and illiterate’, they were still able to pioneer democratic models of working, based on shared values and common purpose. There is also evidence of early pirate social protection schemes involving compensation for injuries and payments made to their widows.

While not condoning the illegal activities of pirates, or their modern day equivalents (hackers, counterfeiters,etc.) Kyra suggests there is much we can learn from how they organised themselves, giving the example of small gaming companies with ‘no management’ philosophies, who encourage team members to collaborate and innovate spontaneously. It may not work for large organisations, but if you want to make your team more creative, think how they can be a little more swashbuckling!

See more at: http://www.purplebeach.com/pBexp2014Postcards/viewBlog/3/What-can-we-learn-from-pirates-about-being-more-creative?#sthash.EhG0fLK7.dpuf

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