What is your Pirate to Conformist ratio?

Fast Company Co.DESIGN web series recently published an article about hiring Pirates if you want change agents in your company. The article is an excerpt from What Would Steve Jobs Do? book and basically talks about how Pirates (aka rebels in my case) are a great asset because they won’t allow your company to become complacent and a bureaucratic nightmare.

Steve looked for the pirate in all his team members. But it wasn’t enough just to be brilliant, and it wasn’t enough just to think different. Steve’s pirates had to have the passion, the drive, and the shared vision to want to delight the customer with a perfect, game-changing product. Steve was constantly worried that as Apple grew, it would become like other big companies: tied up in bureaucracy, with a hundred reasons why something couldn’t be done. Pirates with passion would not let this happen

Every entrepreneur gets this. Knows this and breaths this daily. The challenge then becomes to make sure that you don’t try and grow your company with nothing but pirates — the game changers, because then everything would be in constant flux. There are still great and talented well rounded people out there. They are the 9-5ers who are gifted and bright but prefer the proper size, structure and security of a more traditional company.

My failure as a Conformist

Throughout my career I’ve felt more at home with smaller size companies < 20 employees because of the flexibility and the increased power/responsibility/influence. I’ve worked on large accounts and had many fortune 500 companies as clients, however when I tried to my expertise and maneuverability from the inside of a larger and much more traditional institution, it failed.

I’ve had larger companies as clients so I knew there wouldn’t be any issues. I was wrong.

Despite the very reason I was brought on board, the fit just wasn’t right. I was labeled a ‘rebel’ and was told to de-rebel myself to ease into the bureaucratic company culture better. However, to do so would go against my very nature, it wasn’t who I was. I knew it and they knew it. So I didn’t, and instead I left. I hate failing, but that was a great experience for me genuinely knowing what it means to have the right fit. I’ve hired plenty of people under me, and worked for even more above me, but that specific experience for me personally brought great clarity.

Pirates !=* Superstars

Hiring someone who either claims to be a pirate/rebel doesn’t always translate to being a superstar or even having talent. It really means that they tend to buck the system in hopes for creating a better way. The problem is they might not actually be that great at doing it. This also doesn’t mean that there should just be complete anarchy with managing those rebel employees. Every professional still needs to adhere to a certain set of rules, whatever they are period. Also, as unfortunate as it is, many people claim to be of the type; however, in reality they’re just undisciplined. Having deadlines, some structure or a few company standards aren’t evil and should be red flags if you find yourself working with someone saying otherwise.

It’s about balance

The real secret and challenge is trying to make everything balanced. As much as a rebel tends to act on impulse and independently by taking intelligent risks for the good of the group, a strong team knows how to balance this volatile nature — coming from me this may not mean much, but I’m working on it!

I love the thrill and dangers of pushing innovative ideas. What about you? What about your co-founders, employees? If you haven’t had this discussion yet, how important do you think it is for new/small companies?

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