Monday 19 May 2008

Pirates of the Enterprise 2.0

I've just finished reading Empire of Blue Water by Stephan Talty, which is a book about 17th-century pirates in the Caribbean and their impact on the history of the New World and Europe. Central to this story was Henry Morgan, a pirate in the service of the English crown, who with his volunteer army was able to consistently out manoeuvre the Spanish who were constrained by their rigid centralised culture and government.

I've also just been reading an article from the May edition of Harvard Business Review about leadership in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), titled Leadership's Online Labs. There are some interesting parallels between the two, particularly the descriptions of the democratic and transitory leaderships styles and structures within both the games and pirate culture that provide mechanisms for motivating people.

At a stretch we might even compare these parallels with the bigger story of Enterprise 2.0. However, we might not want to take this story too far - in the end, Morgan was a loyalist and eventually became part of the establishment and hunted later hunted down his peers who wouldn't renounce their pirate ways.

His lifestyle of hard drinking also contributed to his early death - perhaps too much social media will be bad for us too?

(Thinking about Enterprise 2.0 and pirates I'm also reminded of Monty Python's short film The Crimson Permanent Assurance, but I digress...)


  1. Love the reference to too much social media being bad for us...

  2. Apart from the fact that The Crimson Permanent Assurance was crewed by crusty old-timers that is my favorite analogy for E2.0 yet

  3. When I went for my first team leader position at PW, I remember that it was my experience as a Captain in a Star Trek online RPG (forum-based on the old CompuServe forums, pre-www) that gave me the confidence I needed in my own leadership abilities.

    I'm sure that many MMORPG gamers are having similar experiences now.

  4. @geoff Morgan died from dropsy — in other words, swelling. In social media terms, is that information overload? ;-)
    @rob & @falkayn maybe we need a MMORPG of The Crimson Permanent to improve out corporate skills?

  5. Hi James. I like the Pirate metaphor for Enterprise 2.0. I used it a year ago-- almost to the day-- to give some visibility to Scott Gavin's "Meet Charlie."

    See reference to "Pirates of the Collaborian."

  6. Anonymous9:02 pm

    James, you may also check out "The Starfish and the Spider", I blogged about it a little bit here:

    And I agree - one of the central opportunities of Enterprise 2.0 is to make organizations more nimble, more adaptive, more pirate-like if you want. Interestingly, historic pirate outfits seem to follow a round of democratic and modern organizational principles, like elected leaders, distributed power, decentralized networks etc.


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