A new book the Misfit Economy by Alexa Clay and Kyra Phillips takes a deep look at what entrepreneurs can learn from pirates, smugglers, camel milk salesman and the dark economy. Filled with stories of entrepreneurs and individuals who were forced to innovate outside of the confines of their traditional economy, Clay and Phillips expose true methods of history's bona fide hustlers that today's entrepreneurs could learn from.
Amongst the array of characters in this book, pirates rate high on the list. Here are three lessons from the experience of pirates featured in the Misfit Economy:
- Challenge Monopolies
In the 17th century, the East India companies attempted to trademark their shipping routes and were challenged by rouge pirate ships. This defiance of trade route monopolization led to a joint international effort that resulted in the creation of 'international waters' and the inability for any individual to patent a trade route.Whether it be the BBC's domination and censorship of the radio waves or the East India companies inalienable right to the oceans, pirates have historically challenged monopolies through any means necessary, resulting in cultural shifts and new business opportunities.
- Pay Equally
Pirate captains knew that in order for their crew to have a stable and strong team dynamic they needed to offer them transparent and equal pay. As Clay wrote "they understood that material inequalities would lead to a lack of trust, an unwillingness to collaborate toward one common goal, and in effect the inability to create a strong civic society." Today, in an era where CEO's can make 100x more than the average worker, we are already seeing some of this 17th century wisdom about pay equality influence the market. Companies such as Gravity Payments are guaranteeing a 70k salary as a minimum wage and Los Angeles recently raised there minimum wage to $15/hour.
- Reinvent Hierarchy
Pirates are history's "unlikely democrats", explains Phillips, they actually ran a very democratic ship with voted-in council members, a separate disciplinarian committee and processes that enabled every single person on the ship to have a voice: "This reinvention of the hierarchy on merchant ships--this hack--meant that a crew was the real authority on a pirate ship." The advent of new forms of management structures today, such as Holocracy, are modern attempts to level the traditional hierarchy while ensuring effective management.