Lessons from Corporate Innovators

Tendayi Viki, Associate Partner at Strategyzer

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How do you truly operationalize a mandate to become more innovative? There are plenty of resources that talk about the importance of innovation, but over the year’s I’ve really grown to appreciate author & innovation consultant Tendayi Viki’s pragmatic advice.

On this week’s episode, we talk about his work and walk through companies at different points in their innovation evolution and Tendayi offers practical advice he’d offer their leadership teams.

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Sean Ammirati (00:08):
Welcome to Agile Giants: Lessons from Corporate Innovators. I’m Sean Ammirati, your host, Co-Founder and Director of the Carnegie Mellon Corporate Startup Lab and partner at the early stage venture capital fund, Birchmere Ventures. Each week, I’m going to talk to guests who are experts at creating startups inside large corporations. I believe fundamentally, a startup within a company is the same as one inside the proverbial garage, a group of entrepreneurs trying to make the world a better place using new ideas and inventions. However, I also believe some of the techniques and processes are just inherently different. This podcast is going to explore the similarities and differences.

Sean Ammirati (00:56):
On this week’s episode of Agile Giants, I’m joined by Tendayi Viki. Tendayi is an author and corporate innovation expert. If the name sounds familiar, you’ve probably come across one of his three books: Pirates in the Navy, The Corporate Startup, or The Lean Product Lifecycle. Before becoming an author and thought leader, he was the Director of Product Lifecycle at Pearson where he co-developed the innovation framework that won Best Innovation Programs at the 2015 Corporate Entrepreneurial Awards in New York. He’s also just regularly recognized as a thought leader, including recently being shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Innovation Award, and in 2018 being on their radar list for emerging management thinkers to watch. He’s also a regular contributor at Forbes.

Sean Ammirati (01:45):
We have a wide ranging conversation on this week’s episode of Agile Giants. One of the things, and I said this on the episode, but I really do appreciate how practical the content is that he puts out. And so I really tried to walk through a couple different stages that maybe you’re in, your corporate innovation process development, and what he’s seen that worked well and how some kind of practical next steps that you can take. I particularly enjoyed his point about innovation dies in the middle management and some things you can do to level up within your organization around that. So I hope you enjoy this week’s conversation with Tendayi Viki.

Sean Ammirati (02:30):
Well, Tendayi, I am so excited to have you on Agile Giants today. Thanks so much for making the time. I’ve read your books and a big fan of what you’re doing, and it’s awesome to have you join us today.

Tendayi Viki (02:41):
Yeah, no. Thank you for having me.

Sean Ammirati (02:42):
I think as a great place to start, one of the things that I really appreciate about all three of your books is they’re incredibly practical. There’s a lot of literature out there, which is like innovation is important. You should be innovative, which I think is not wrong, but it’s not necessarily that helpful. One of the things that we like about the things you’ve done is that they’re very practical. They’re very applied. And I thought what would be fun for our conversation today is maybe to take some of the things that you’ve learned across the work you’re doing and speak to different audience members of Agile Giants and talk about what you might suggest they do next depending on where they are. And where possible, reference some examples of case studies that make sense as well.

Sean Ammirati (03:32):
And so I thought what would be great to start with is what about those companies who are just embarking on this? Right? So they may have an innovation mandate that it’s important to actually be innovative, but they’re struggling to figure out what to do first. What might you say to an executive in that position?

Tendayi Viki (03:50):
Right. So it’s interesting, right? The different types of companies that are just starting out, there’s the company that’s just starting out where the movement towards innovation is being driven from the bottom of the organization so that a couple of entrepreneurial folks that work in the organization, they’re trying to help the organization do some work. And then there is the “I was just in Silicon Valley” leader who comes and goes, “We need to do something because the stuff I saw there is so cool.” And then they initiate the mandate to do that. Now, regardless of both starting points, whether you’re starting from the bottom or starting from a top executive, a CEO or some sort of C level exec, both those movements run the risk of being killed in the middle, right? They run the risk of stumbling into middle managers that are busy having to hit that goal, having to hit the revenue target, having to hit whatever strategic agreements they have with the CEO at the beginning of the year that they become resistant.

Tendayi Viki (04:53):
Now, one of the things that people often assume and they assume wrong is that if the mandate comes from the CEO is likely to be successful. Clayton Christensen, God rest his soul, he had a really cool statement where he said, “CEOs think they run the organization, but they really don’t. The people that run the organization are in the middle.” So in the middle is where we say innovation goes to die. And so what I would say for anybody who’s starting this sort of movement is don’t just jump in blind. Don’t just pick the latest, cool fatty thing that you’ve seen and try and put it into the organization. Don’t just go, “I’m going to go and start a lab.” Or, “I’m going to have a hackathon.” Or, “I’m going to have something cool like that.”

Tendayi Viki (05:37):
The fundamental challenge that we face when we’re trying to drive innovation inside the organization is not the discovery of cool ideas. That’s the easy part. It’s not even sometimes testing those ideas and finding ideas that work. The things that get in the way of that are sociological, socio-psychological, it’s relationships. Right? And so before you jump in and start doing any of these things, the most important thing is to do discovery. Find out what innovation looks like in your organization. What do leaders think about when they think about innovation? Where are the pockets of resistance? Which are the leaders that are much more likely to set landmines and blow you up? But in doing that, also you find out which leaders are early adopters and they’re much more likely to be cheerleaders for what you’re trying to do. If you do that, you’re much more likely to come up with bespoke solutions rather than just sort of pulling something off the shelf that you saw in another company.

Sean Ammirati (06:31):
Yeah. So when you say discovery, just to be clear, because sometimes people hear that and they think, “Yeah, yeah. I’ve read Steve Blank’s book. I know how to do customer discovery, right?” You’re not talking about outside the walls discovery in that context, right? You’re talking about inside the walls discovery about what’s going on in the organization. Is that correct?

Tendayi Viki (06:50):
Yes. I am talking about discovery, researching and understanding the context in which you’re going to be placing innovation. So there’s two ways to do innovation, right? One is to find a project and then nurse it through all the landmines and make sure that it becomes successful. Another way is to try and make it a repeatable process, make it as easy as possible. So the first innovation team is almost like pioneers that are laying down the road for everybody else to sort of walk down that same road. Now, I can guarantee you this. Even if it feels like a new mandate, you can trust me on this, in every company across the world, somebody has tried to innovate and failed. Right?

Tendayi Viki (07:29):
And so the question for us is, what is it that caused that failure? What is it that got in the way? And how can we get around those roadblocks for this sort of new wave of innovation work that we’re trying to do? And discovering that is much more important than creating a lab.

Sean Ammirati (07:46):
Yeah. I think that there’s a ton of wisdom there. So just in terms of expectations management, how long do you think people should spend on that internal discovery process?

Tendayi Viki (07:58):
Yeah. I mean, anything from a month. And even from like a couple of weeks to a month, maybe six weeks. If you get beyond six weeks, you’re doing too much. Right?

Sean Ammirati (08:07):
Right. This isn’t a long time. The point I’m trying to make is it’s not like this is going to eat up your 2021, right?

Tendayi Viki (08:15):
No, no, no.

Sean Ammirati (08:16):
This is like, “Have this done by Q1 and then be ready to roll, but get this foundation laid so that you can roll a little more efficiently.”

Tendayi Viki (08:25):
Yeah. This is not going to eat up your 2021. It’s not even going to eat up the first month of your 2021, the first two months of your 2021. Right? It’s really just getting a sense of like, where are things in this organization? What are the things that already exist that can help us? And what are the things that we need to build anew? Right? You need to do that innovation ecosystem assessment. You need to find tools that allow you to analyze, do we have innovation boards? Do we have any innovations going on? What kinds of innovations do we have going on? You might think it’s a new wave, but you might discover there’s already a digital studio in another division. Or there’s already an agile transformation thing. And so how to do it. So all of these things are things that will be going on around you that you need to know, and then figure out a way of how you fit into that. Right?

Sean Ammirati (09:13):
And I think even more important than, “Hey, there’s a digital studio already going on. Hey, four years ago, there was a startup garage that didn’t work out,” and you’re going to run head first into the buzzsaw of that failure if you don’t know about it. Right?

Tendayi Viki (09:27):
Exactly. It’ll be the same guy who will be like, “Oh, another one of you.”

Sean Ammirati (09:31):
That’s right. That’s right.

Tendayi Viki (09:32):
You don’t even know that. I remember having a conversation once with the head of innovation from a large bank in South Africa. And he was telling me that if he had known that the day that he was being introduced by the CEO to the company saying, “This is our new head of innovation,” if he had known that there were people in the audience going, “Okay, we’ll see.” If he had known that, he would have acted differently because he came in without recognizing that he was the fifth guy with a different title, but doing similar things and people know how to resist that. Things don’t often work the way we think they are going to work out just because the CEO is the one leading the initiative.

Sean Ammirati (10:16):
Yeah. I remember I was doing a keynote for a large German company. It was the CIO and 200 of their direct IT reports. And I was in the buffet line in the morning. They didn’t know who I was. I was talking to the guy in front of me. And he’s like, “Yeah, innovation, it’s like the thing they’re focused on right now, but I’m going to keep my head down. This too will pass.” And he’s like, “What are you here for?” I was like, “Oh, I’m the speaker coming to talk to you about innovation today.”

Sean Ammirati (10:44):
You’re right there, is there’s history there. And I think your wisdom about innovation dies in the middle is really important here. Right? That middle layer of management. What have you seen as effective ways to turn those middle managers to champions or to at least make sure that it doesn’t die in their part of the organization?

Tendayi Viki (11:07):
Yeah. So one of the things that innovators or entrepreneurs make a mistake when they start dealing with organization is to really be antagonistic towards middle managers. We don’t as entrepreneurs understand why a person would ever not want to work with us. But think about it this way. Let’s call her Jane. She’s the senior vice president of a division in the large organization. At the beginning of the year, she had a meeting with the CEO. They agreed what her goals were and all the targets she was going to hit. Then she went back to her team and they built the roadmap for the year about all the things that they were going to do that year. They agreed that with the CEO. If they hit those milestones, they’re going to get their bonus. She’s probably eyeing to move to the C-suite next year when this other guy retires? And the world agreed that if she hits this, she’s probably going to be the next head of some regional whatever. Right? So that’s her life.

Tendayi Viki (12:01):
One day, some guy called Tendayi knocks on the door and goes, “Hey, we have an innovation lab. What you should be doing is…” She’s just like, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t care. It’s got nothing to do with my life.” So from her perspective, you are actually the straw that broke the camel’s back. She was already stacked. But from our perspective, she’s an ignorant MBA. Lack of understanding is what creates this sort of almost like you speaking French, I’m speaking English kind of class between the innovators and middle managers. And so what I try to say is you really have to gain an understanding of, what are the things that are keeping these people up at night? What are they worrying about? And then try and see if you can actually use innovation to help them accomplish their goals.

Tendayi Viki (12:53):
Build credibility with them. And if you build credibility with them and allow them to succeed at the things they care about using your process, next time they’ll trust you with the newest stuff. Right? But we don’t often have patience to work with our middle managers in that way. And sometimes, walking fast is going slow. You know?

Sean Ammirati (13:11):
That’s right. So I do want to move to a couple other kind of personas, the people who listened to this. But just before we do that, any sort of case study or example you might point to of like, “Here’s a really good success story from company X, Y, Z that did a great job getting this set up, getting the middle managers on board?”

Tendayi Viki (13:32):
Yeah. So my favorite story is the story from Bayer. They had an innovation team there run by Henning Trill. So they did really, really great work there and what they focused on, which is what we will try and avoid most times, is legal and compliance. So they went and worked with the management team of legal and compliance to get an agreement with them upfront about how innovation teams would work with legal. And then they came up with a set of rules about how innovation teams would kind of work collaboratively with legal. Now, most innovators, they’re trying to avoid that layer of middle management. It’s like, “Oh, no, legal, they’re going to kill everything.” But they went direct and said, “Let’s actually collaborate and build bridges so that we’re not breaking the rules and we’re innovating in a way that’s sort of compliant.” And just that really helps build that road that other teams can then start to walk on.

Sean Ammirati (14:24):
Yeah, it’s an amazing story for just the programming that we had Priscilla Beal who runs the America’s part of Bayer’s program around that maybe a year ago. And it was really amazing the sort of inefficiencies they’ve taken out of the process by going through and working with legal compliance. It’s really impressive. That’s a great example. Okay. So let’s move to a different type of people who are also listening to this, which is people who are thinking like, “I think my process is pretty good, right? I’ve got some things going and I feel like my executive team is happy with me.” I’m curious with where you sit. What do you think are maybe some of the more underutilized or underappreciated approaches around corporate innovation that people who are doing good and trying to get to great should consider focusing on?

Tendayi Viki (15:14):
Yeah. That’s a hard one because what’s “doing good”, I guess, is the question that I would ask. So we have what we call the innovation readiness assessment where we assess various things. Do you have a portfolio, for example? Right? Do you have a portfolio of products? Or does innovation work as a one-off? Another one is what we call your kill ratio, right? How many projects are you actually stopping? But I was working with a client who I can’t say their name, but we came up with a metric there, which was a number of zombies.

Sean Ammirati (15:52):
That’s very good.

Tendayi Viki (15:57):
So zombies are projects that are part of our innovation process. We decide as an innovation board that those projects should stop, but somehow those projects find another sponsor via the back door to keep going. So we say, “We’re going to measure that number of zombie projects and show that to the organization, the metric to say we decided that this needs to stop because of X, Y, Z, things we’re seeing around customer need, channels, whatever. And you’ve decided to keep on going because it’s X and X is good project.” So as soon as you start just showing the number of zombie projects, will go, “What’s a zombie project?” And then you tell them the definition. And then that team has to justify why they’re still going. So that’s one of the things I might recommend actually that people who’ve got a process going on do. Yeah.

Sean Ammirati (16:44):
That’s awesome. Yeah. And you mentioned another thing in there that at least in my experience, and it’s certainly not as wide a breadth as you would have at Strategyzer, but in my experience, a lot of these companies don’t have real innovation boards set up yet. And so you mentioned that. I’m curious if you could talk just a little bit more about what an innovation board is and how you go about setting one of those up.

Tendayi Viki (17:08):
Yeah. So I often ask people, what’s the number one reason startups die? And they come with all types of reasons. They go, “Team, lack of product, et cetera, et cetera.” And I think startups die for just one reason and one reason alone. They run out of money before they find a business model that works. That’s why a startup dies. And nobody else is willing to give them more money to keep going. The moment they’re out of money, it’s time to sort of shut that down. In corporate innovation context, innovation teams don’t run out of money. Once they are on the budget, every year, they get re-upped the same amount of money that they had last year. Right?

Tendayi Viki (17:46):
And so what we say is if you’re in that situation, you have to act like a rich family. You have to create artificial scarcity, which means that you have to give people incremental investments. Give them a small bet and say like, “When this bet runs out, you’re going to have to show us X amount of progress and then we’ll give you more. And then when that bet runs out, you’re going to have to show us X months of progress and then we’ll give you more.” And that’s how you create the same feeling of running out of money before you find a piece of model that works.

Tendayi Viki (18:14):
Now, in order for that to work, you need some sort of board that manages that portfolio. You can’t just do that out in the open. You need those teams to be accountable to some sort of institution. And that’s what the innovation board is. Cross-functional group of leaders, five or six. If you want to get beyond that, it becomes a conference rather than a board. So five or six leaders that have budgetary responsibility. It’s not a talk shop. You have to have budgets or you have to make decisions about investing or not investing in ideas. And then they actively manage the portfolio of innovations that we’re working on.

Sean Ammirati (18:49):
So there’s a lot in there that I’d love to unpack with you. So I’m just going to poke on a couple of things there. So one, as someone whose day job is managing a VC portfolio, I have a mental model of how a high functioning startup board works and how a low functioning startup board works. And as someone who’s just intellectually interested in corporate innovation, it doesn’t feel like the executives I’ve met in general would actually be fully prepared to sort of act like I would consider a high functioning startup board. So I’m curious, how do you… Well, first of all, maybe you disagree or maybe you don’t need to, but my intuition is you need to do some training with these boards in terms of how to be a high functioning board. And so if that’s the case, what does that look like? How do you get these executives that are cross-functional, really strong in the areas they’re really strong in, but maybe don’t have the right experiences to draw upon, how do you get them ready to be a high functioning corporate startup board?

Tendayi Viki (19:54):
I just want to justify myself. The reason why the innovation board is cross-functional in corporate context is because a lot of innovation teams find it difficult to scale if they don’t get support from key executive. So you need them in the room somehow to help your thing go to scale. So what is it that a high functioning startup board would look like? One of the things that they’ll be paying attention to is real evidence of how the startup is performing. Are they hitting their numbers? Are they growing? Are they showing traction? All of these things that show that a startup is on track. Not, “Did they finish building the thing on time?” Right. So that’s what we try and try and try and train them to do. We have a whole series of training conversations. We have workshops. And then I sit on those boards for the first few meetings. You’re asking the wrong question. This is how you should have been phrasing it. This is what you should have been looking for.

Tendayi Viki (20:51):
And what we’d really try to focus on them is to look for evidence of progress, evidence that the team is on track to finding a business model that works. Not whether or not they think the technology is cool or that that kid has got a future in this business. That kind of stuff. Right? Just focus on the evidence that the idea is actually going to work. And we invented a thing, we call it the innovation project scorecard, where they have to score the team’s presentation on evidence of channels, evidence of customer relationships, evidence for revenue models, evidence of key resources. So all of these things are things that we train them and then give them tools to actually do.

Sean Ammirati (21:27):
Yeah. I think this is key because, again, I think the analogies aren’t always one-to-one between traditional startups and corporate startups. But in this area, when you think about that startups fail because they run out of money, I think that’s technically true, but it’s typically a symptom, not the cost. Typically, they run out of money because A, B, C, and D happened the 18 months before they ran out of money. Right? And in fact, there’s fascinating research by a colleague of mine who used to be at Carnegie Mellon and he’s now in the University of California university system, Michael Ewens. For people who are interested, it’s spelled E-W-E-N-S but it’s pronounced Ewens. But looking at what happens when venture capitalists do inside rounds. Right? So he’s got 20 years of venture history across thousands and thousands of venture firms. Right?

Sean Ammirati (22:22):
And the interesting thing is those inside rounds in general are an incredibly negative signal. But if you look at the outliers over the last 20 years, there’s been inside round-led financings, right? So Tumblr famously had three inside rounds in a row before they did their next outside round. Right? YouTube had a number of inside round-led financings before the Google acquisition. And I think the reason is venture investors who are great, and the problem in VC is that that’s about 10% of people who are VCs, but venture investors who are great know how to be contrarian and correct. Right? And they know how to focus on progress, not just metrics. And that’s such a different skillset than being a senior manager at name your favorite Fortune 500 company.

Sean Ammirati (23:22):
And so these startup boards are fascinating to me intellectually. And again, I don’t have a ton of experience with them because there’s corporate startup boards because it’s not what I do. But it seems like teaching them how to do that. And then also teaching them how to look at it at the portfolio level, as you said, is really important, right? Because they know the math, right? If you said, “Okay, one out of 10 of these is going to be a hundred X return and the other nine are going to fail,” I mean, these are smart folks. They can tell you that’s the 10X in aggregate. But how many of them would have the sort of stomach to actually deal with the nine failures to get that one? And it seems like there’s just skills that are important there.

Sean Ammirati (24:10):
And the interesting in venture is this is typically taught to you in an apprentice-like model. Right? Most great VCs were first great entrepreneurs. Right? I started and sold three companies before I became a VC. And then I joined a venture firm that had been around for 15 years. Had a track record to learn in this kind of apprentice-like model. Right? I think there’s an interesting gap when we think about corporate startup boards, how do we sort of create that same type of learning, especially when you need to do it so much faster? Right? I don’t think you can go to Goldman Sachs and say, “Give us 20 years. And 20 years from now, our startup board is going to be really effective.”

Sean Ammirati (24:49):
And to me, that’s where firms like Strategyzer and it’s probably easier for me to say this than you because it sounds a little less like a commercial, so that’s where firms like you guys are interesting. Right? Because now you can harvest learning from across all these other clients that you’re working with to set these up. You can harvest tools like your innovation scorecard, which I think of as kind of almost a checklist to sort of get the process right before you do it. There’s a lot there. And I think governance around these is going to be a really interesting area for the next couple of years. And I think that’s a good one.

Tendayi Viki (25:25):
Yeah. I think figuring out that governance is really almost like the next frontier because you can tell them the portfolio nine out of 10, but the question is just not any random nine out of 10. There has to be a reason why. How do you discover that reason? And how do you know which one of those is the ones to keep investing in? So all of these things are things that you learn as an apprentice hands-on. At Strategyzer, our thing is to make tools whose application embodies the principle. And then in doing that, people can over time become instinctive in their questioning and their looking and their analysis, et cetera, et cetera. But before, it’s painting by numbers with coaching.

Sean Ammirati (26:09):
That’s right. So I think that’s right. And I think also the other part of that is just how dollars are allocated. I think the other major unlock in the next couple of years is going to be teaching CFOs a lot of this stuff. I think the CFO title is going to go through the same transformation that the chief information officer did around the digital transformation handle.

Tendayi Viki (26:34):
Absolutely. So when we were working at Pearson, I thought of a team there that was led by Sonja Kresojevic, one of my co-authors on The Lean Product Lifecycle, and we decided after two or three years of struggling, that you know what? The only way this works is through the finance division. So we started working with senior vice presidents of finance and the CFO to actually think of a financial model, but it’s actually recognized as incremental investing, metered funding, small bets that increased over time as teams show traction. And the fundamental question we were asking the finance guys was, how much money would you be willing to part with before a team has a business plan? Before they can promise you a rate of return, how much money would you really part? And we’ve got them to 250,000. And that was like the maximum. After that, you have to come with a plan, but like, “Okay, we’ll take that. And then we’ll kind of work with it and then we’ll see how far we get.”

Tendayi Viki (27:28):
Because in corporations, they always calculate their rate of return on a per project basis. But in venture, we calculate the rate of return on the portfolio.

Sean Ammirati (27:38):
That’s right.

Tendayi Viki (27:39):
And so you’re having to kind of teach them that and kind of have a conversation with them about that and help them figure that out.

Sean Ammirati (27:46):
Yeah. This is getting into some research I’m doing right now at CMU with my colleagues in the finance department. I also think just the metrics that they’re using are just the wrong metrics because of some underlying assumptions around that. Right? They assume a bell curve like distribution of outcomes implicit in the math. And the math, it’s precise, but it’s precisely wrong which makes it not helpful at all. I think there’s a lot there. Man, I could talk to you all day. I have one more question. I’m actually not even sure your answer to this. This is genuine curiosity as I was thinking about this conversation today.

Sean Ammirati (28:22):
So I think of you as arguably one of the number one experts in intrepreneurship in terms of inside out innovation, right? Like create a startup board, build a process to make it scale, not luck. I’m curious how you look at outside-in innovation, partnering with startups, corporate venture capital, things like that. How do you think about that as it relates to the overall innovation strategy?

Tendayi Viki (28:51):
So I’ve been working with a whole bunch of pharmaceutical companies who because of regulatory constraints cannot create digital technologies because they’re not allowed to communicate directly with the patient. And so the only way they can solve that core problem is outside-in innovation. They have to work with startups who are allowed to have this access legally. So they’ll never build their own internal technology startup teams unless something happens in the regulatory space or they figure out a way to actually do it. So I don’t have a problem at all with the outside-in innovation. The challenge I think is a better word that I have is it’s the shiny object problem with corporates, which is they go, “I was at… and I saw such and such team present… We have to do blah, blah, blah.”

Tendayi Viki (29:48):
So it’s better if they think about is strategically and then build a process that allows. So for example, again, the same South African team that I’m telling you about, they were going to work with some startup that was going to help them with some sort of big data thing for one of their applications that they were trying to build, but they hadn’t actually agreed with… They agreed to work with a startup to scale. They didn’t agree to work with a startup to validate the product, to validate customer need, to validate the business model. They didn’t agree on a testing process with a clear thing that if this doesn’t work, we’re going to stop working together. We’ll pay you for as far as we’ve gone and then we’ll stop. Right? Those kinds of things are what I find is still missing, this sort of outside-in collaboration between startups and large companies.

Sean Ammirati (30:42):
Yeah. I don’t disagree with that. I think, to me, there’s a lot of synergies to do both of them together, but I don’t disagree that the approach a lot of companies are taking right now is a little bit of chasing their tail. And it’s unfortunate because I think it could really be one plus one equals five. And yet, I don’t see a lot of great examples of that today, but I think it could be. And I think we need to level that up because it’s good for the startups and good for the companies if they do that better.

Tendayi Viki (31:12):
Exactly. Not only are their last corporations chasing their tails, they see the big shiny thing and then they want it. And then when a startup turns up, they go, “If you would only sign this 500-page thing that makes us own your idea from here on in.” So they’re like, “No.” They’re not sure exactly what they’re trying to do if it comes up. Yeah.

Sean Ammirati (31:33):
Yep. I agree. I want to be respectful of your time. Again, I could talk to you all day, but I want to finish with the question that I like to ask everybody. Right? Which is we have lots of people coming out of graduate school who are students of mine thinking about their careers, right? And for a student who’s maybe looking at your career and saying like, “Wow, really amazing career. What an amazing innovation process at Pearson, authored three books, working with all these companies,” and thinking like, “I would love to have a similar career trajectory,” what advice would you give him or her?

Tendayi Viki (32:06):
So I didn’t really have a career trajectory if that makes sense. I just jumped from one thing to another until I landed on this. So part of it is as young as you are, try as many things as possible to see the things that interest you. Right? Don’t lock yourself into early… I think a lot of people think that you’re supposed to come out of graduate school already knowing your passion. Some people do that and some people don’t, right? I mean, I’ve had three different careers. That’s one piece that I would say. But then the other thing that I… And I give this advice to everybody is mastery matters. You have to be good at stuff. That’s the only way. One of my favorite book, Cal Newport, Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You, I buy that book for people and I give it to them. Be so good they can’t ignore you. Being good is the best networking tool you’ve got. Right?

Tendayi Viki (32:59):
For somebody like me, being asked to do things is better than asking for permission to do them. Our conversation is really, really different. And so you want to be sought after, and the way you want to be sought after is to be good. To be really, really great at what you do. So yeah, master your craft.

Sean Ammirati (33:15):
That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much for making the time today. I really appreciate it. And hope we stay in touch.

Tendayi Viki (33:22):
Yeah. Thank you, man. Really appreciate it.

Sean Ammirati (33:29):
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Agile Giants. If so, consider sharing it with a friend. And if you think it’s worth five stars, which I hope you do, please go to iTunes and rate it so that others can find this content as well.

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