Tendayi Viki on his new book “Pirates in the Navy” … inspired by Steve Jobs who thought that it was “more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy”

May 16, 2020

Steve Jobs thought that it was “more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy”.

Of course, trying to build your own startup is hard. But there is probably nothing harder in business than trying to innovate inside large corporations. While startups have enemies and competitors outside the company, innovators within large companies often have enemies and competitors inside their own company as well.

Large companies are faced with a paradox – they have to innovate for the future, while running their core business. It is the management of the core business that tends to get in the way of innovation.

And yet a lot of large corporations have entrepreneurial employees who are constantly trying to innovate. Although they can be viewed as disruptive rebel pirates, these innovators can see the future coming and they are passionate about ensuring that the company survives into the future. Most intrapreneurs recognize that they can not keep doing innovation as a series of one-off projects that have to jump through political hurdles. They realise that there is a need for some change inside their companies to allow innovation to happen as a repeatable process. But how do they get this done?

Tendayi Viki’s fabulous new book, Pirates in the Navy, is written for innovators working in large companies.

Some of his favourite soundbites include

  • “Making innovation happen inside organisations is really hard, but innovation matters more than ever.”
  • “Not just one-off innovation, but a repeatable cycle of taking new ideas to market successfully.”
  • “The business case is the worst thing. The business case is what crushes innovation.”
  • “Entrepreneurs inside organisations are full of ego, they rub people up the wrong way, and fail.”
  • “Pirates, or more accurately privateers, can bring an entrepreneurial culture, and play the corporate game.”
  • “Have a little humility, you are not Elon Musk or Steve Jobs and you don’t know everything.”

Tendayi Viki is a passionate innovator, putting his psychology background to good use, in seeking to make sense of organisation cultures, and how innovation can most effectively thrives in big companies.

Originally from Zimbabwe, he is now based at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. He was shortlisted for the Thinkers 50 Innovation Award and named on the Thinkers50 2018 Radar List of emerging management thinkers to watch.  He is co-author of The Corporate Startup and The Lean Product Lifecycle, part of the Strategyzer business model innovation team.

We’ve worked together a number of times, particularly at the European Business Forum. He is a fantastic, thoughtful, likeable guy. This year he joins me in delivering the flagship executive education programs at IE Business School.

If you have ever asked yourself the questions below, then Pirates in the Navy is for you:

  • How do we actually create an innovation ecosystem and bring it to life?
  • How do we change the culture within our company?
  • How do we start a movement that transforms how innovation is managed?
  • How do we influence our leaders to prioritize innovation?
  • How do we work with detractors and naysayers?
  • How do we collaborate with enablers such as finance, HR, legal and brand?
  • How do we bring about lasting change that sticks and makes our company more innovative?
  • In other words, we get the theory and we get that innovation is important – but how do we actually get it done in our companies?

He is convinced that it is possible for innovators to succeed as Pirates in the Navy.

He says his book will provide innovators with practice tools and guidance to navigate the choppy water of corporate politics while successfully transforming their companies. Hi colleague Alex Osterwalder, author of bestselling Business Model Generation, says “This book answers key questions for innovators and their managers: how to influence leadership to prioritise innovation, how to work with naysayers and how to start a movement that transforms the way innovation is managed within companies”.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Be The Change – On how innovators need to have an authentic commitment to lean innovation and startup methods; and truly understand the underlying philosophy of these new ways of working. In other words, no innovation theatre!
  • Chapter 2: Innovator’s Choice – On how innovators need to make a clear choice – Do they want to run innovation as an underground movement or do they really want to change how innovation is done within their company? Each choice has its pros and cons.
  • Chapter 3: A Little Humility – On how you are not Elon Musk or Steve Jobs and you don’t know everything that will save your company. Relationships matter on this journey.
  • Chapter 4: Start With Discovery – Before you are understood, seek first to understand. Eat your own medicine and take the time to understand your company in a deeper way.
  • Chapter 5: Start Small – On how innovators should not try to change the whole company at once. Instead start with early adopters then slowly scale the change.
  • Chapter 6: Early Wins – On how business is still about the bottom line. We don’t innovate for the fun of it, we do it because we believe we can create new revenue growth engines for the company. Getting an early win shows that our methods work.
  • Chapter 7: The Catalysts – On how to create a network of support for your movement. This will include key stakeholders, leaders, enablers, coaches and innovation teams.
  • Chapter 8: Options, Options, Options – Not all innovation has to happen in innovation labs and accelerators. What other options do we have for embedding innovation within our company.
  • Chapter 9: Repeatable Process – On how to embed innovation as a repeatable process, rather than a series of one-off projects. How you can take your company through the four maturity levels of an innovation ecosystem.
  • Epilogue – How To Run A Successful Underground Movement – If all else fails, how do we run an underground innovation movement that still succeed in building great new business models for our company.