Have you been trying (and failing) to bring people together?

Want to focus on people (not shiny widgets)?

Want an anchor (pun intended) to find a different way?

Here, red10‘s Tam Watchorn describes her learning from the book “Be More Pirate” and her own ways of implementing the Pirate Code through QUBE® and LEGO®

Be More Pirate

A couple of years ago I came across a book called Be More Pirate and had that kinda WOW feeling you sometimes get when a message resonates.

I often find myself quite late to the party so assumed everyone else had already seen it, read it and got the T-shirt but it turned out it was just out. I got in touch with the author and ended up going along to a couple of his sessions as observer to learn more.

I then turned my attention to how I might use the Pirate Code (which is the key point of the book and not about savagery and walking the plank) to help drive some of the innovative ways of working I was trying in the NHS.

Innovative Lone Souls

At that time many of those working in innovation in the NHS were often lone souls in a grey office at the back of a forgotten NHS office building who, while being told to innovate were also being told to fill in risk assessments, produce KPIs and develop a 5-year plan for what they were going to innovate.

Without realising I’d been trying (and failing) and trying again to bring people together, to focus on the people side (not shiny widgets) and the book gave me an anchor (pun intended) to help do it in a different way.

We needed a Pirate Code to make it stick.

My first Pirate act: Introducing QUBE®

There was lots of learning on the way and some great successes along with the failures and the latest book How to Be More Pirate (which tells some of my story) has made me reflect on the legacy of me rebelling and doing things differently in the NHS. I introduced QUBE virtual working.

This was long before anyone had an inkling of MS Teams or Zoom or Miro Boards, none of which remotely compare in terms of functionality or changing ways of working and culture to QUBE. Mostly because they are tech driven and not people driven.

No-one saw the need for a remote workforce and no-one really understood that do to all the things they wanted (improve outcomes, productivity, collaboration, culture and staff well-being) required a very different way of working. But I persevered and can share a huge number of successful QUBE case studies in the NHS and its continued and growing use.

My second Pirate Act: Introducing LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

Imagine a room full of professional Public Health Consultants being asked to, well play, with LEGO®. Professionals who are experts in their field and called upon to advise governments on things like pandemics. My biggest failure, nae learning, was expecting them to be able to engage with this process and create a future they for public health that they wanted. A 2-day workshop was designed based on the process.

On day 1 they reluctantly followed the process. But their shoulders were round their ears, they were stiff, they didn’t communicate well, they were dismissive of partners in the room (social, 3rd sector orgs) and they didn’t come up with any real answers.  The failure meant I had to re-design day 2 overnight. With the sponsor we agreed we would repeat the challenge with a slightly different question. They revolted. Arms crossed, shouting:

“We are not doing that again. We did that yesterday. No No No.”

As a facilitator in front of 40 expensive and angry consultants what do you do? Panic was an option but instead I responded:

 “OK. You are an expensive resource and I’m relatively cheap, so we need to make the most of your time. Tell me what you would like to do, we will have a quick tea break and I’ll re-design the day.”

After some grumbling and conferring they said:

“OK, we’ll do what you suggest.”

And they did the build again. Not only did they do it again, but they did it well. They collaborated with the other people/orgs in the room. New conversations happened, new ideas formed, follow up cross organisation meetings were arranged. The room buzzed with new opportunities and possibilities.

Getting Past Group Think

The learning for me was that the group, highly professional, suited and booted experts were so stuck in a culture of behaving in a certain way that they were too rigid (afraid?) to do anything different and go against protocol.

They couldn’t do other than what they knew. On day 1 they did as asked but didn’t really engage. On day 2 they needed to complain about it. This was typical behaviour for this group. We did what you said and it was rubbish and now we want to complain and go back to doing our jobs the way we do them. A clear example of group think and group do (even if on the inside they didn’t want to behave like this).

So why was Day 2 a success despite this?

The key, I think, was me giving them the opportunity to create the day they wanted. This gave them, as a group, the feeling of empowerment which gave them as individuals the permission to get involved in the process in the way it is intended. The permission to relax into it and be themselves and bring themselves to the process. The ‘arms folded –  we’re not doing that’ group dynamic dissolved away.

So BeMorePirate, if you know it’s a good thing rebel and persevere. And try and recruit some like minded Pirates as it can be a tad lonely at times.

Book Launch: How to Be More Pirate


QUBE Drumbeat