One on one… with Dr Tendayi Viki
One thing about my job
I spend a lot of time helping companies work through the ‘paradox of success’ – the moment you become successful the seed for your future failure has been planted. Bill Gates once remarked that success is a lousy teacher because it convinces smart people that they cannot fail. So my work speaks to the psychology of complacency.
Trying to convince business leaders that they need to worry about the future can be a tough conversation to have when their bonus might be ten times my annual income! The management of current success is the Achilles heel for innovation in large companies. The interesting and challenging part of my job is to help leaders build management systems that allow them to both manage their current business and explore future opportunities.
Originals by Adam Grant. Leaders cannot pick the winning ideas on day one; according to Grant, the best way to have good ideas is to have a lot of ideas. He describes how people are familiar with a handful of plays from Shakespeare and a few classical songs from Mozart. However, these creative geniuses wrote hundreds of songs, plays and sonnets. The research in this book shows that if companies want to drive innovative behaviour, they have to create a space in which they make multiple small bets, see what gains traction and then double down investment in that.
One thing I’d change
The pervasive view that Africa needs charitable help to succeed. I am from Zimbabwe, and I truly believe that entrepreneurship and innovation from large companies will be what brings Africa out of poverty. The only thing we need are business leaders that are not only interested in the success of their companies but in improving the ecosystem in which their businesses operate. This involves investing in smaller companies and helping to build the infrastructure for business to succeed. Such an approach would unlock the inventiveness and creativity of the African people.
I am fascinated by athletes who reach the peaks of their careers but remain motivated to keep getting better. How do they not become complacent? What drives people like Sir Alex Ferguson to keep going even when they have accomplished so much? The answers can help with some of the questions I try to address with successful large organisations. I also use this as inspiration for myself. I try my best not to get caught up in the success of my books or any innovation awards I win. I constantly ask myself, how can I get better?
One proud moment
This one is a strange question to answer given my last response! But one was when my first book, The Corporate Startup, was awarded the 2018 Management Book of the Year Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship by the Chartered Management Institute. It felt like an arrival of sorts. The journey had been long to get there and the reward felt really good.
One psychological superpower
The ability to not take negative feedback personally. My work is at the cutting edge, so I always face resistance. Sometimes this can degenerate into negative criticisms and personal attacks. However, people have every right to disbelieve and challenge my ideas. Not only is this good for me in terms of humility, it also helps me sharpen my craft.
One thing about the BPS
I am proud to be a Chartered Member. The BPS does good work advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. But what is most impressive is the focus on how research can be applied to improve people’s lives; consider the recent work on how people can move from poverty to flourishing, or cope with Covid-19.
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