Ship of Fools

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Ship of Fools is an organisational sculpt that can be used for

  • illustrating problems experienced by a particular type of organisation
  • illustrating relationships between central and local organisations
  • developing a strategy by assessing relationships with external organisations
  • team building by assessing the dynamics in and of teams
  • identifying the dynamics of a problem set of relationships
  • providing feedback to a system.

It is “safe” to facilitate in agile contexts. It uses 8 pre-determined roles that are easily recognisable “elements” or “parts” in any organisation, 8 observers, and a pre-set situation based on an organisational challenge or problem. The sculpt can also be used to answer substantial questions on possible organisations, and try out interventions in a “safe setting”.

Let’s play!

The entire crew chooses a Pirate Cap’n by consensus, who then chooses a First Mate and a Constable, who then chooses the other roles, and we try a number of pre-set interaction scenario’s.


Ship of fools

North West: Boatswain – quality

Misplaces his or her trust, has no faith in the outcome of any journey (or sculpt for that matter), incorrectly decides and acts, harbors dogmatic belief systems (switches systems easily, depending on what is happening and the swabbies are making fun of) – the role of the self-pity/self-importance flipflop.

South East: Radio operator or Lookout in Crow’s nest – marketing concepts

Coward and NEVER sends an SOS, displays extremely politically correct, behaviorally correct, socially correct, spiritually and sexually correct thinking and behavior.

East: Captain – forward feedback loop (anticipating)

Drunk, can hear pretender voices, suffers from illusions and hallucinations, projects his or her perceptions all around on just anybody that passes/comes near or asks him/her anything, and/or has pretender experiences. A (wo)man with wild imagination, that sees mutiny all around him/her. Quite paranoia (final stages of alcohol poisoning at times). Navvv .. IIiigasjon?! Heading? Mannnn, Go awwwaayyyyyzzzzzz …

North East: Machinist or Sailmaker – reward system

Is sunk into a dull lethargy (no chi), needs to fit in, to belong, has a need for acceptance, and a need to conform, and to be loved and liked.

South West: Cabin boy – sales

Was stolen from another ship, as the last one fell overboard.

West: First Mate – negative feedback loop (steering)

A liar, can produce non-confrontational and/or tuned out responses, procrastinates on occasion, or panics. — is the one that is supposed to steer the ship, and bring death by ordering keelhauling of and walking the plank by unfitting parts, if and when first ordered by the captain of course. Does not make it so at all, or displays lots of doubt and shows lack of confidence whilst steering and ordering such sentences.

North: Constable – operations (routine)

Guards and regulates order, weapons and ammunition: covers up inadequacy, incompetence, is indecisive, and generally very inconsistent. Very failure prone. Many a mutiny go wrong because the weapons were not looked after, or the ammunition (gunpowder) was wet. Superstitious beyond belief says, “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.”

What needs to change in order for the Constable role to act more decisively for delivering excellent results as a crew: more emotional balance and more control over the ship so as to pick another destination than the reef?

South: Swabbies – development (variable)

Loud perjured rascals, have a lack of mental authority and responsibility, substitute having remorse by being guilty, and generally give all kinds of immature responses — very emotional people that cannot see other points of view.

What belief systems block the swabbies from seeing other points of view? Can the swabbies redefine the ship’s meaning and purpose?

Or something like that?

Suggestions very welcome? We can diversify/expand/adapt (crew) roles t’ our likin’ an’ e’en temporarily hoist th’ Jolly Roger an’ steal some young lasses t’ work wi’ th’ captain, first mate an’ pastor on th’ upper deck, t’ warm the’r “floppy limbs” an’ spoon-feed them wi’ pre-chewed food, an’ by piratin’ more we can hold some roles we need more hostage, like brothel kings an’ play machine barons … We can also be havin’ some wild beach parties an’ all get loaded t’ th’ gunwhales — th’ only time th’ captain trusts us an’ all roles suddenly act mature? What ye think? Who feels like playin’ — until th’ End o’ Time (when Energy an’/or th’ Internet an’/or th’ servers come tumblin’ down fer whaterereason)

Ship Ahoy Mateys! Controlled Folly! Full steam ahead fer th’ Reef!

Sourced from (Inspired by)

Further ingredients

Ran previously at