Pirates in Education: championing challenge & innovation

I stand proud as a ‘Pirate in Education’, pledged to facilitate ‘positive disruption’ in the education system. 

Embracing a shared vision with other ‘rebel’ educators and parents, I commit to shape an education system that maximises the innovative potential of all learners; one purposed to social, cultural, environmental and economic value creation. Subscribed to the design and implementation of a 21st-century education that is both challenging and constructive, I dream that the innate curiosity of the young [as expressed in Ponder, puzzle, pose] is cultivated and applied to real-world problems. A system design that is flexible and agile enough to support all types of need in all types of context. A learning journey that skills learners to become the entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and change-makers that embrace the challenge of tackling society’s wicked problems that are characterized by uncertainty and ambiguity. Educators, learners and a broader set of stakeholders, all working together to create meaningful and valuable businesses, social systems and solutions.

To this end, I champion the development of ‘rebel-talent’ (Gino, 2018), the promotion of the entrepreneurial mindset and behaviours (Krueger, 2015), and quite specifically, the adoption of entrepreneurial competences (The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework, 2018). Learning design that seeds and nurtures “enquiring, critical thinking, future-orientated thinkers, who are equipped to face the challenges of their careers” and “are able to undertake autonomous learning and self-evaluation in more risky contexts that include legal, financial and ethical considerations “(QAA, 2018).

Rebels, here to stay

Traditionalists often find the word ‘rebel’ or terms such as ‘pirate’ incredibly uncomfortable, conjuring impressions of chaos, disobedience and disarray. For me, my fellow pirates and an increasing number of celebrated authors, academics, professionals and leaders, such terms represent the growing collective that wish to challenge convention; questioning the status quo to see if things can be done a better way. There’s a long list of values that ‘we’ rebels or pirates’ cherish. Trust, integrity, respect, diversity, authenticity, fairness, being just a few of the most commonly cited. 

Champion creative solution finding and positive problem solving based on available facts, the moment of opportunity and power of practised intuition. Evolve the human race beyond the mindset of solely a ‘consumer’ and the dangerous, destructive and limited relationships it has created.

Extract of Pirate Code from Sam Conniff’s (2018) Be more Pirate ‘

EntreComp support

Recently on Linkedin, I celebrated the work of Sam Conniff’s (2018) ‘Be More Pirate’ [The mind behind 21c pirate rebellion], Professor Francesca Gino’s (2018) ‘Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life‘ and the more recent publication, ‘Corporate Rebels: Make Work More Fun‘ by Joost Minnaar and Pim de Morree (2020). “Rebel, change-maker, pirate, pioneer, positive disruptor, professional rule-breaker, innovator… whichever name you rock, with the intention of positive value creation…it’s clearly not about no longer giving a damn, but being pioneering and progressive towards a better future”. In fact I am downright grateful to Sam, Francesca, Joost and Pim for the supply of such interesting, well-articulated research and argumentation, drawn from a multitude of contexts and cultures. Indebted that they so credibly share case studies and research that correlate positive and professional rebellion with entrepreneurial thinking, innovation, and engaged and connected purposeful change. Inspiration drawn from likes of Richard Branson, Ricardo Semler, Simon Sinek, Dan Pink (Minnaar & de Morree, 2018) and companies such as Pixar & Walt Disney Animation Studios, Osteri Francescana, Spotify and InnoCentive (Gino, 2018). My growing compendium of ‘rebel’ sources, offering professional and clear-sighted approaches to find different paths from the “archaic and outdated procedures and protocols that hold no room for creativity […] or leeway” (Minnaar & de Morree, 2020). 

Change-makers are increasingly sharing inspiring stories of rebellion in their varied contexts; illuminating that we are all capable of the change we want to see in the world. Clear evidence that we don’t have to “be a CEO to change working methods” (ibid.) and clear guidance that innovation and improvement is more commonly seeded in cultures of experimentation and “safe-to-try” environments. A key benefit of Entrepreneurial Learning and it’s associated ‘EntreComp‘ competence framework, is that it invites the necessary practical entrepreneurial experiences in a supportive environment. Here, mistakes are embraced, and failure, considered an invaluable learning tool. All key to effective preparation of the confidence and experience needed to turn ideas into action in the real world (Bacigalupo et al., 2016).

EntreComp model (Bacigalupo et al., 2016).

Authentic selves

At last, being or seeking ‘rebel talent’, even within a traditional brick and mortar university, doesn’t mean “becoming an outcast” (Gino, 2018). As free and authentic thinkers, we should all be free to form our own list of values or ‘pirate code’, and we do not need to start from scratch either. No-one really has the right to claim complete originality or genius (Fritz Grobe, 2013), as our ideas and inspirations run deep; cross-fertilized by and within each and every individual profile of education, upbringing, research and experiences. In fact, the more I read, research and network, the more I find similar, powerful ideas about the necessity of rebellion. This is heartening, and brings hope for the future. I can see so much good that can be born from an entrepreneurial-underpinned rebellious education system, professionally enhanced by the EntreCompEdu training programme. Educator and learner mindsets that firmly know the boundaries of behaviour that they will tolerate. Fueled by their curiosity and wider perspectives, people, who ‘fight the tendency to stereotype’ (Gina, 2018), face problems head-on and embrace opportunities for innovation and societal value. 

In my mind, the rise of the rebel-centric author, leader, researcher and educator has built a pretty clear case for parents, educators and employers to encourage children, learner, employee and citizen alike, to question and even break the rules when necessary.

A new age of passionate innovators, birthed from within the education, not in spite of it, who focus on transforming the world for the better, has begun.

Linked blog posts:


EntreComp: the tool of choice for resilient VUCA*-proof change agents

Ponder, puzzle, pose: the-case-for-curiosity

The mind behind 21c pirate rebellion


Bacigalupo, M., Kampylis, P., Punie, Y., Van den Brande, G. (2016) ‘EntreComp: The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework‘, Publication Office of the European Union; EUR: Luxembourg.

Conniff Allende, S. (2018) ‘Be More Pirate: Or How to Take On the World and Win’, Penguin: UK.

Gino, F. (2018) ‘Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and In Life’, Dey Street: New York.

Grobe, F. (2013) ‘’I Don’t Believe in Genius’ by Fritz Grobe at TEDxYouth@CEHS . Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC3JEZMiK74 [Accessed 23/02/2020].

Krueger, N. (2015) ‘Entrepreneurial education in Practice Part 1- The Entrepreneurial Mindset’, Entrepreneurship360 thematic paper, OECD: Paris, France.

Minnaar, J. & de Morree, P. (2020) ‘Corporate Rebels: Make work more fun’, Corporate Rebels : Nederland B.V.

(QAA for HE) The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2018) ‘Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for UK Higher Education Providers’, January 2018. Available: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/docs/qaa/about-us/enterprise-and-entrpreneurship-education-2018.pdf?sfvrsn=20e2f581_10 [Accessed 20/02/2020].

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