Work Like a Pirate


I’m not joking. The idea from this post came from watching the ads for the new Pirates of the Carribean movie. It reminded me of a common theme in all the pirate movies that can apply to business.

A Pirate is not His Ship

Pirates are the ultimate underdogs. They often have a lesser quality ship (or product or service). To compensate, they have to be more creative and clever in dealing with their opponents. They don’t view their ship (or their product) as home base. They view it as a means to beat the opponent, by capturing or sinking their enemy’s ship. How can you go after your enemy? How can you look at your own product or service as a means to an end?

Pirates Move Fast

Because most of their vessels were stolen or “acquired,” pirates often had smaller, faster vessels, but lacking the big guns of the ships they were often pitted against. Flexibility becomes one of the tenets of living the pirate’s life in business, flexibility married to cunning and adaptability.

Pirates are a Team

In researching this post, I was surprised to learn that pirate Captains didn’t have the final say on matters the way they do in movies. Turns out that most pirate ships were run democratically. The captain would get a share and a half of the treasure, but otherwise, his word carried no more weight in official votes than his crew. In business, the CEO is seen as the leader, but an organization runs only when everyone participates. The analogy breaks down a little here, as I can’t imagine forcing my CEO to walk the plank, but then again, a Board of Directors unhappy with a CEO’s performance might fit that bill, right?


Pirates Live by Results

Plundering, pillaging, and other pursuits aside, pirates are all about getting results. They don’t get paid without a lot of up-front hard work. If you are a pirate, you are striving to accomplish a big score. There are perils, risks, and all kinds of ways that the job can fail. It’s a lot like being part of a startup, only pirates have swords, patches, and parrots.

The only negative I found to the whole pirate-as-businessperson analysis is that they’re horrible at organizing information. They file everything under “Rrrrr.” Sorry, I had to say that.

Off the wall, I admit, but sometimes it’s the ideas on the fringe that grab us and move us towards another angle we hadn’t considered before. So, are you a pirate? Or their prey?

–Chris Brogan hides buried treasure for a living. Maps can be found at []

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