Can tales from the historical high seas make waves in today’s business environment? Jamie Klingler, founder of experiential brand marketing and events company Creative Influence Alliance, looks at how a new book is championing the power of audacity, outlining modern day updates to the radical strategies of Golden Age pirates.
Given that we are often schooled in very similar ways and taught how to problem solve and how to address conflict in equally similar ways, truly innovative thinking can be a challenge. There are often many options that never get explored. Sometimes it takes an outrageous way of looking at a proposition or an argument to actually make those breakthroughs.
Since I read Be More Pirate, I haven't stopped talking or thinking about the power of audacity - and how much I like to celebrate the rule breakers and pirates I’ve encountered in business situations. And this book actively encourages you to interact with that energy and to challenge those bits of your working self where you just go with the flow - rather than ask why the river is there. I've underlined bits (which I never do), have shared with friends and am genuinely thinking about it when in meetings and plotting my next project and moves.
Be More Pirate reveals the radical strategies of Golden Age pirates and updates them into solutions for the bold and the brave in the 21st Century. The book draws parallels between the strategy and innovation of people like Henry Morgan and those of modern-day rebels such as Elon Musk, Malala and Blockchain. And for wannabe pirates, it looks at how we might apply their tactics to life and work today.
Central tenets include the fact that good ideas can start with anyone, and, more often than not don’t come from the top down. And that turning problems on their heads to create solutions can actually revolutionise the way work is done.
Some companies have created such a culture of meetings that the meat of the work is only getting done for an hour of the day. If your most productive hours are from midnight till 4 am why should you be at your desk at 9:30 and lunch from 13:00-14:00 daily. We need to look at how people’s clocks work and why – and importantly challenge any prevailing winds that are blowing if they are grounding our ships on predictable rocks or taking them off course from our real objectives.
Running an events company, the ability to think innovatively is a powerful and defining skill. Recently, we ran the London Seafood Festival at Battersea Power Station, and as part of the run-up, we talked about having a fishmonger on site. For the goodie bags on our launch night, I thought it would be great to have a whole fish, some simple ingredients and a little cooking lesson in there.
Robin Hancock, one of the founders of Soho seafood restaurant Wright Brothers was part of the chat, his eyes lit up… and then he said, ‘no, even better, let’s give them octopus’. His team then sourced the 100 octopi tentacles to share with our guests to give them the surprise of their lives when they reached into their bags.
All ‘pirates” know that good ideas require collaboration from people with different experiences, different values and different creative outlets – and that confidence and risk-taking is key to creativity. If we spent more time exposing ourselves to audacity and being open to it, we might have a lot less burnout and a lot more fun professionally and personally.
The main takeaway from the book is that rebellion should not be punished, it should be celebrated. We need to collectively challenge the way things are done, but not just tear the rules down - crucially we need to re-write them. The Golden Age pirates didn't just reject society, they reinvented it with mischief, purpose and power – and we can learn from them.
Let’s look at how schooling and apprenticeships work. Let’s talk about the barriers to real diversity in the workplace. Let’s discuss the challenges faced by women coming back to work after having children; hugely expensive child care, isolation, career plateau-ing and a promotion gap which, in turn, influences the gender pay gap. I definitely don’t have all of the solutions to these issues, but I am up for being in the room and having real discussions about how to fix them. What are the pirate solutions that we aren’t looking at?
With the thousands of shared desk spaces popping up all over the world, should some of those be in schools? Or should our offices be connected to schools and employees share three hours a month of business skills with the kids as a more creative and affordable form of after school care? This may be a crazy proposal, but it is also possible that crazy proposals can work. And therein lies the energy of the pirate.
This book undoubtedly has been influenced by the years and years the author, founder and former CEO of award-winning youth marketing agency Livity, has spent with young people - and in recognising their promise and possibility. But translating that to older adults who are quite stuck in their ways isn’t easy. The book is a rallying cry for action and I am signing up.