The one sentence summary
Pirates embodied a code that was far more advanced than most companies today.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS
- You need a pirate mindset to create change, and that means:
1. Rebel – draw strength from standing up to the status quo.
2. Rewrite – bend, break but most importantly rewrite the rules.
3. Reorganise – collaborate to achieve scale, rather than growth.
4. Redistribute – fight for fairness, share power, and make an enemy of exploitation.
5. Retell (tall tales) – weaponize your story, then tell the hell out of it.
- Pirates cause good trouble. They challenge the authority of the establishment and its ownership of new ideas. They innovate at the margins, free from the order of the ordinary. They have a dual focus of fortune and fairness. Their acute focus on micro needs inadvertently creates macro solutions. They tell their story at scale through subversive tactics. They don’t accept pointless rules.
- Pirate ships had three main conditions:
1. No plunder, no pay. There was no pay for underperforming bosses.
2. Open incentives for going beyond the call of duty – being the first to spot a ship on the horizon could earn reward.
3. Fair shares for all crew members – regardless of status or colour.
~ For a modern company, copying pirate philosophy means:
~ Voluntary and open membership – everyone is welcome.
~ Democratic member control – everyone has a fair say.
~ Member economic participation – everyone gets a fair share.
~ Autonomy and independence – free from authority.
~ Education and training – everyone is encouraged to work effectively together.
~ Cooperation amongst cooperatives – scale is achieved through the network.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- Ironically, most establishment leaders were more corrupt than pirates, engaging in far greater amounts of theft and extortion. Pirates wanted to create something better. Britain in particular failed to reckon with the powerful lure of the colonial anti model: piracy not as a crime, but as a legitimate occupation. In fact, many governments were actually in league with pirates to serve their own ends.
- Ahead of the 2009 financial collapse, the CEO to average salary ratio was 384 to 1. Much of this disparity continues today.
- Two quotes from Banksy:
- “The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules.”
- “Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it.”
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- Some may find the pirate analogy a bit far-fetched, but if viewed with an open mind it is surprisingly coherent and relevant to business.