Create your own Pirate Code

My favourite business book of the year is Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende. It is a clarion call for change, for action, for us to ‘break the rules and replace them with better ones’. It is a movement for change and I just love the spirit it is written with. So I decided I should share this with my Be Collaboration community, a group of like-hearted people committed to collaboration and making the world a better place. 

Now, Sam’s book is unapologetically aimed at millennials and we are not exactly in his target market – we like to call ourselves the ‘pre-digital generation’ – but I reckoned we had enough rebels, curmudgeons and awkward bastards that it would still resonate. So I presented some of the ideas at one of our meetings in the ‘Genius’ slot, which is where we share new ideas and things we’ve come across.

And they absolutely loved it. They loved the myth-busting and the revolutionary ideas and the exhortation to go and make ‘good trouble’. And we made lots of jokes and pirate noises. Because you have to, really.

One of the things I particularly like in the book is the bit about the ‘Pirate Code’ and how it established a set of shared values, behaviours and objectives, with a remarkable degree or commonality over the whole period of ‘The Golden Age of Pirates’ (which was from around 1690 to 1725). 

Before each mission, the participating pirates would agree a Pirate Code for that mission and all would commit to following it, signed in blood and punishable by death (well, the first bit is probably a Hollywood myth but the second part certainly isn’t!).  This could be for one ship of 80 or so men, or it could be several combined into a force of up to 2000, like when they sacked Panama City. Oh, those Pirates, what japes they got up to, eh?

I suggested that a collaboration was a bit like a pirate mission and that when we came together for a project, the first thing we should do is write our own ‘Pirate Code’. Everyone loved this idea so we had a go at it (for an unspecified hypothetical project) and this is what we came up with.

The Be Collaboration Pirate Code for collaborative projects

  1. No Surprises
  2. Forgive Fast
  3. No Ego
  4. Be Your Word
  5. Always Look To Do More
  6. Unlimited Imagination
  7. Get A Parrot

(Here’s a version that expands each point in a bit more detail).

Given that we already have an extensive set of values that we are all signed up to, I was surprised at how much debate it stimulated. In effect, what I think we came up with is a more applied and practical expression of those values, focused on the ones that are most important when you’re trying to get something done. Something clear, simple and memorable that will cut through the bullshit and get to the heart of matter, even in the smoke, noise and confusion of battle (or project implementation, as it’s sometimes called).

It was also a lot of fun to do and I think it will be a great way to kick a project off. And, just to make it authentic, we can all dress up in flamboyant costumes and drink rum. I can’t wait!

But seriously, I was surprised at how useful and powerful this exercise was (and it’s only one of Sam’s suggestions in the book) and what a radical set of ideas the Pirates had. The book is becoming a movement, adopting these ideas and applying them today, and I can understand why. On the evidence of this, I’ll be looking to see what other ideas I can, er, steal (well, that is what pirates do, after all).

Buy the book. Steal what you need. Make good trouble.

Be More Pirate.

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