“Going on the Account”

Photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash

I’m reading Sam Conniff Allende’s excellent “Be more Pirate“, which has done a great job in reframing how I think of Pirates. (I’ve put a link below of his talk at the RSA if you’re not familiar with his work – it’s worth watching)

One phrase in particular has stayed with me. “Going on the Account”.

It is how pirates referred to moving from working for the Royal or Merchant Navies, and “Going Pirate”. Throwing off the shackles of often abusive working conditions to go into business on their own account with others of like mind, with better conditions and the prospect of riches, although with the downside of getting hanged if caught. (I once had an employment contract that was like that.)

The advantage they had was that they were very well trained, and “Going on the Account” usually meant repurposing the ship they were on. Say farewell to the Captain, hoist the black flag, and off they went.

That had me thinking about how we go pirate today. Taking control of the business is rather more difficult, and without taking control, we’re playing at Pirates under the watchful supervision of shareholders, lawyers, and all the other paraphernalia of corporate structure. It may feel better for a moment, but someone else is setting the direction.

That took me to the point though that we don’t need physical or virtual vessels – something owned by somebody else, we need connection and cause. Something worth mutinying for, and people to mutiny with. It’s never been easier to create a pop up pirate ship.

Which took me to thinking about connection, and the nature of mycelium. Our organisations prefer compliant people in neatly labeled boxes that can be moved around by HR. What we have seen during the pandemic though, and flexible working, is that it’s never been easier to connect to people and ideas that have the ability to identify and attract the pirate in us. I listen to those complaining about recruitment issues and pay differentials, and I can’t help wondering what they had ignored before, or was there just an assumption that minimum wage gig economy thinking was a right? Mycelium on the other hand grows naturally, finds its own direction and transfers nutrients where they are needed. It feeds what it is connected to, but is not owned by it. Mycelium is very Pirate.

And I wondered about who needs to go pirate. Not the younger generatons – they are largely already there, given a cause, and not those in the C suite – they are much keen to make creative use of the yardarm for pirates.

It is I think, those in the middle of organisations, with neither the freedom of the younger generations or the plugged in access to wealth of senior management. The people who will find themselves overboard the moment technology, geography or consolidation makes it possible.

I reallly like Sam’s book. It is part of a wider body of work all of which carry a theme of latter day piracy, from Citizens to The Quiet Before to The Club on the Edge of Town.

If we really want to break free, we need to do it from the middle, and go on the account.

Because the Pirates are coming anyway.

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