Catalyst_for_Magic

From Amplify for one to amplifier for many

Just over 15 years ago, I stumbled into an unlikely scenario that would unfold into a unique opportunity and shape the leader I would become.

As a new migrant to Australia ( and a pretty rough start that I won’t elaborate on), I seized an opportunity to build a new life. I joined what was then a very conservative financial services company, and chose to be the change I wanted to see: to champion the opportunities for value creation that new technology was driving; catalyse the special magic of human creativity, and to make a difference to customers, business results and personal lives through bringing fresh eyes and ideas to innovate.

In the process, a career-defining legacy and global brand in business innovation and learning would emerge: The Amplify Festival for Innovation and Thought Leadership.

On 31 December this year, one month from now, I will be applying the mantra I’ve been sharing consistently through every Amplify Festival and Talk; every Leaders Forum designed; every person coached or mentored; and every keynote given since the day I was asked to champion a culture of innovation at AMP.

And that is:

The only way to remain valuable and relevant is to keep learning, growing and creating.

So I am deliberately trading the safe comfort zone of my corporate job to create space for something new. Disrupting predictability, security and certainty to plant my flag of passion, purpose and personal reinvention on a new planet: The Planet of Possibility.

I want to learn more, grow in different ways and create new value for a broader customer base and to amplify Amplify for new clients into new geographies. ( Hit me up if you want some of that awesome magic! The kids have finished school and I’m footloose and free to work anywhere.)

It may seem ironic that just today my team and I was awarded the ‘Dream Team’ Award for the contribution that Amplify has made to innovation at AMP, at a time when no less than two of our business rivals are  copying the Amplify model to transform organisational learning, and a week after sharing the origins of Amplify and its impact on culture and eco-systems at KM Asia in Hong Kong.

But the truth is..a dream team is in place! Magic has been catalysed! The music will go on.

Innovation and transformation has taken root in a systemic way. Its significance and value is not only championed by the board, CEO and executive leaders but matched by real passion for customers and fundamental change in the way things are done at every level of the organisation. ( Even the hackfests I first introduced in 2007 are now happening the first Friday of every month!)

Of course, its never a single thing or person that brings about such deep change – it’s the powerful and cumulative effect of a good leadership team and thousands of catalytic triggers; many from ideas seeded along the way by the more than 300 Amplify speakers and thought leaders that shared their vision and wisdom with our community which has grown into the tens of thousands since 2005.

So, for all who have been part of my journey as Catalyst for Magic at AMP, thank you for believing- and even if you didn’t, for feeling the fear and doing it anyway! (A special tribute to my immediate team who has come with me to places they’d never thought they’d go!)

Thanks to our Amplify thought leaders who’ve covered millions of miles between them to share the very edge of knowledge and personal experiences that not only inspired AMP, but an entire business ec0-system. Your names are still referenced on a daily basis years after your visits!

Thanks to the CIOs ( Lee Barnett and Craig Ryman) for the extraordinary creative latitude and air cover you’ve provided for this ill-fitting maverick, and the investments you’ve made in Amplify to set a standard for creativity and organisational learning that’s the envy of the industry and documented in more than 10 international case studies and business books.

Thanks to the AMP Board and Leadership team that demonstrated so publicly that learning is part of work and the growth mindset essential to an innovation culture by sitting shoulder to shoulder with employees, customers, partners, suppliers and members of the public in every Amplify forum.

And thank you to the dream teams (over the years they changed) – fired by their passion to make a difference, have an impact, and working way beyond the call of duty to co-create something epic and life-changing; and becoming changed themselves through the process.

I can best summarise what it’s been like through the words of one of my heroes, Sally Hogshead.

‘The world is not changed by people who sort of care. 

The world is changed by people who passionately, relentlessly care– sometimes, unreasonably so. People with the focus and excitement to bound through the Iditarod of obstacles that invariably blocks the path between “no” and “yes.”

Thank y’all!

In future, please reach me with messages here, or

on LinkedIn at https://au.linkedin.com/in/annaliekillian

or Twitter at @Maverickwoman

 

 

Making it to TED

Ted_logo

Last week Friday, I realised a big moment in my life. It came about so swiftly and required so much effort and preparation that I didnt have much time to reflect on it in the lead-up, and when it was over…I was too depleted for days to switch my brain on again or put pen to paper.

That moment was TED. My first. Not as attendee…as SPEAKER! ( Lol…I am willing to put myself through torture again should  anyone think my future ideas worthy of another talk!)

And to be totally honest…it was not quite TED Global, it was TED X Melbourne– an independently organised event licensed by TED. It’s like the Teddie Bear version, but it’s also the edge of innovation from whence Big Bear TED draws it’s next hits, so not exactly a walk in the park! And it’s the same sort of crowd…highly intelligent, accomplished change agents, tech savvy, edge-dwelling, hyper-connected, passionate about ideas and with ambition to change the world. As audiences go, I don’t think they come any more challenging than that!

The next big hurdle was finding an “IDEA WORTH SPREADING” within the theme of the event: Innovation. Do you know how hard it is to come up with a really NEW idea? Something that is not just an echo chamber? And that you can credibly talk to?

I had my concept very early on, then had to decide how to build it by drawing on tens of millions of accumulated ideas and distilled wisdom since the days humans started fashioning tools and leaving our interpretation of the world on the walls of caves. Then…how to narrow that down! Brevity is a quality I have sought to conquer all my life. Twitter has made an enormous contribution, but I was hugely challenged in picking out what to put in and what to leave out in 18 precious minutes whilst weaving drama and story, tension and resolution, strong beginning and climactic ending, with emotional connection.

I read somewhere that a good speaker on the paid circuit, (ie one who earns a living from conference speaking and does not have another day job on top of it) would spend up to 35 hours to prepare a 1 hour talk.

I would suggest that one can trebble that time for a TED 18 minute talk- especially if it’s not something you do day in and day out. 

I had about 1 month notice of the invitation, and early on decided that it wasn’t enough time to work with slides. Having attended TED Global twice as an audience member, as well as being the curator for AMPLIFY FESTIVAL and a regular at PICNIC, PopTech, Aspen Ideas Festival and the Business Innovation Factory, I have found that slides blur in my mind after a day of talk after talk after talk….so the presentations that demanded that I listen to only the speaker were somehow retained with greater impact.

But another reason for this decision is that I am accutely aware that as a digital immigrant born in 1961, I simply haven’t mastered the mouse flick to sell my shtick effortlessly and slick. So I said: pass. More pressure therefore on ME to keep my audience enthralled- and that in the last slot on a Friday afternoon!

Most people who know me would think I am very comfortable with public speaking. I do a lot of it and I have overcome shyness…but this time, I was throwing up for two days- the last time 5 minutes before I went on the stage! Whether it was stress or if I caught the same viral enteritis that brought down my 13 year old daughter’s friend who flew to Melbourne with us, I dont know. The poor kid was so ill and feverish that I had to arrange for a chauffeured car to take her to the airport to fly back to her mum as I took off for the Melbourne Convention Centre 30 minutes before my speaking slot. All in a day’s work for a working mum!

But it’s true what the experts say: “It all comes together when you go live on stage!

When I walked onto that big round red rug and saw the clock ticking….18:00, 17:59, 17:58, 17:57..instead of the choking anxiety that debilitated me moments before, an invisible fairy godmother cloaked me in a beam of light and confidence from who knows where! In practising, I did an early version of the talk to two of my team members, and the only other practise audience I had was my daughter and her sick friend in the hotel room- the rest was me in the bathroom mirror! So I was quite taken aback when the audience actually laughed….I hadn’t anticipated that….my kids always say my jokes are “SO LAME”!

I had taken a bit of a risk with a message that was truly heartfelt, but that many of the social media and internet junkies ( of whom I am an honorary member!) could construe as being anti social media or anti-computers. And indeed, some did. But I was relieved when by and large, the feedback I had at the post TED cocktail party and ever since then in a constant stream of tweets, blogposts and LinkedIn requests, that my talk HAD provoked reflection and stimulated people to think more deeply. ( The video is not yet available, and I will insert it when it’s up, but my talk was about The Maker Instinct- the relationship of how we learn by making things in a physical sense and how using ALL our senses and intelligences, underpin our ability to create and innovate.)

My final reflection on this experience I could not include in my TED Talk….I needed the reflection time after for its message to crystallise although it did pop into my conscious mind as I was in the process…..and that is:

The “MAKING” of a speech is in itself an enormous act of personal ( and professional) innovation and courage.

It forces you to let go of fear, to find courage, to hold opposable ideas in your mind, to anticipate objections, to think with both reason and emotion, to experiment, to fail, to stand up and try again.

(The proviso is that you do it yourself…don’t outsource it! )

And THAT’s why I’d jump at another opportunity like this. Speeches are a pain…they take HOURS to prepare, can totally tank if you misread your brief, but you learn so much about how to communicate and engage others in the process.

So here’s my next big idea:

I think delivering an 18 minute speech on a big idea or value should be a mandatory hiring test for all people leaders!  

( Hint: That may be an idea worth spreading! What do you think? Shall I start working on that in case someone wants to give me another go at this? )

(On 25 Nov I received the video link to YOUTUBE- so now you can see me in my imperfect glory…and you can see I’m actually having fun!) 

 

The serious business of Catalysing Magic

On Friday, I delivered this talk on what it takes to build a Culture of Innovation, at the FST Media 5th Innovation and Technology Conference_Future of Wealth Services and Insurance, at The Hilton Sydney. Apparently, it was well received and I have had a number of requests to share it. Here goes: 

 

http://posterous.com/posts/new/1226904#

Down doesn’t have to mean out: How I am giving thanks this Christmas

Tonight, when it’s raining again,16375 of my fellow countrymen and women who have no home, hearth or hope, will be sleeping on a cardboard box on the street. Again. .3750 have their children with them. 

I came perilously close to fear and desperation after I migrated to Australia in 1999. Caring alone for 2 babies after a horrendous marriage breakup and living off my life savings for 14 months while trying to find a job, I have some idea of how easy it is for even talented and capable people to suddenly experience a reversal of circumstances.

Bad things sometimes happen to good, decent folk. These people are not the dregs of society, and there, but for the grace of God, goes I.

And one Nobel prizewinner, seven Oscar winners, one famous psychologist ( Dr Phil), nine best-selling authors, one knighted person, one recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom,( the USA’s highest civilian honor),  one billionnaire, and a number of award-winning actors and artists. This list of 176 world-famous people all of whom have experienced homelessness at some stage of their lives makes for a fascinating read.

Whilst being down on your luck is a profound lesson in humility and personal resilience, there is NOTHING glamorous about it. And there is nothing glamorous about the sleep-out on cardboard boxes that I will be participating in on 30 November with a number of my caring colleagues. We are raising money to buy 500 swags ( backpack style sleeping bags that are waterproof and mosquito-proof) so that a few folks could have a healthier, more comfortable and dignified Christmas this year. I will be live-blogging and tweeting about this experience, so be sure to subscribe here and follow @maverickwoman on Twitter.

How empathy works: Instead of putting others in their place, we must put ourselves in their place.

If everyone reading this post contributes a swag or two in lieu of a Christmas gift to those who really don’t need another thing (one swag costs $68.00), imagine how many people could experience a warmer, drier and more dignified sleeping solution this Christmas? 

Update as at 27 November: This post has been read 5700 times. But only 32 people have made a contribution so far. With 3 sleeps to go before the sleep-out….. Would you be the next one please? 

Pls click through to http://www.everydayhero.com.au/itamp_mad , to make your contribution, big or small. It will make YOU feel a much better person, and its a great gift to give not only to yourself, but someone in need of your empathy and humanity.

You can read more here about the organisation that invented these award-winning innovative backpack beds (called a “swag” in Australia – yes, as in “Once a jolly swagman” from the famous Aussie “Waltzing Mathilda” song.)

And here’s how it works.

Swag

Swagsforhomeless

Boom chicka wah wah of fabulous women by Jane Copeland

written by copingwithjane.com

Imagine doing work which involved being a connector between the future and the present. It is quite apt that as my first subject, the woman whose boom chicka wah wah I will be sharing with you, is the unique and extraordinary Annalie Killian.

Killian’s keynote presentation on ‘Being Helpful is the New Black’, or as it was titled on the AITD National Conference program ‘Emergence of a participatory culture to accelerate organisational learning’, is when the penny dropped. I discovered that there is a new sort of quid pro quo emerging, called social capital. It was the catalyst that catapulted  this former social media phobic Gen Xer, into the world of the new digital networked community of social media. I have just mentioned the word catalyst without even realising that it’s Killian’s official title at work: a catalyst for magic. It’s a big statement, and well in fact she is. Director of Innovation at AMP, Killian’s work focuses on building a culture of collaboration and innovation, a place where employee creativity is nurtured and channelled.

What is your boom chicka wah wah? “Being totally at ease with who I am.”

Follow Annalie on twitter

What is really significant about Killian, is the innovations she has been responsible for. In the workplace, Killian is a champion and driver of the adoption of emerging technologies in the web and mobile web space, social networks and social media. Some of the more unique, and some would say slightly left of center initiatives, include:  creativity challenges for user-generated content on the AMP Intranet, social media cafes, a creativity bootcamp, and a creative challenge to IT professionals. However the major initiative and a project sited as her favourite, is  AMPLIFY -a thought leadership festival that explores the intersection of technology, science and art with society. AMPLIFY  draws global experts to Sydney to discuss and bath in all things innovation.

Really what Annalie is doing is mixing things up, rocking the boat so to speak. New thinking and new ideas mean change, and as you can appreciate as wonderful as it sounds, challenging the status quo can’t be easy. To be an innovator is to be different and this comes with its fair share of hurdles. And that is what is appealing. Having an impact on the way we do things, must have taken such strength, self belief and passion to drive it forward and continue to do so. Enormous in fact. True to her twitter name @maverickwoman, Killian is indeed a transformational change agent.

So here’s my interview where I try to uncover and share the special ingredient, the essence of my first modern day Heroine, so that you can take it away and create your own magic.

What is the best magic you have created to date?

While I love to create stuff in the physical sense with my hands, I seldom do these days. My creativity is much more applied at a macro-level. I enable creation by others, I make opportunities possible, guide the process, and remove obstacles and barriers so the magic that’s already there, can flow freely. It’s a funny fragile thing. It requires a safe space for a bit of risk-taking and vulnerability, and that’s what I try and carve out. I can’t tell you how many times IT geeks, accountants, corporate folks- essentially NON-artists, have left me speechless by coming out with work that is far more creative than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams- despite being labeled “a so-called creative type.” That definitively proves what is a fundamental belief I have….ALL people are creative. It’s not a special kiss from the gods that singles out some folks and leaves others with “uncreativity”.

Has there been anything significant that happened in your life to make you take the path that you took?

It’s an interesting question. I’d have to say no, I can’t pinpoint any conscious event that triggered this route, I have just fallen into every role I had except for my first 5 years at Deloitte. I did learn something when, as a city girl, I ended up with Deloitte in Zululand, desperately unhappy in a small town and disengaged with my work and community but feeling trapped by marriage. I was very unhappy, but I eventually realized that the only thing I could do was leave (at the time a price too high to pay), or stay and look for ways in which I could make my world a better place. When I stopped focusing on myself and sought opportunities for making a difference for others, my whole world changed forever. It’s the most empowering thing ever to know that one person CAN make a difference – and you never look back from there, you just want to keep taking on bigger and bigger challenges.

What does an average day look like to you and how important is your time management?

I don’t have an average day. But I do struggle to contain them because I work in a totally seamless way. There is no separation between life and work. I love my job so much I would probably keep doing what I’m doing regardless of the financial rewards of pay. The satisfaction and meaning comes from the work and impact and challenge, not the carrot or stick. So, you can see in what camp I am philosophically when it comes to what motivates people. It’s doing meaningful work that makes you feel worthy.

How do you engage the imagination of young girls in technology?

I have wrestled with this one for a long time and I think that’s because technology jobs are stereotyped by media as the socially inept geeky types writing code in solitude in the basement. I think we have to fish where the fish are….where are young girls hanging out, and what do they use. Then paint a career in technology as an extension of what they are probably already doing, which is probably online shopping or messaging their friends on social networks!

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were 15 years old?

That I would have about 5 careers by the time I was 50, and that it’s more important to try lots of things at 15 than obsess about one thing. I had a lot of angst because I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to study. It doesn’t matter- just study something and get good at it. Work at it so you can master it, but consider that a starting point to a beautiful meandering journey that may sometimes take you down blind but interesting alleyways, or occasionally, take the fork in the road…..your career choices at 15 are not an end point.

In terms of your personal style (physically) what would you say your signature item was?

Clothes wise I think its eccentricity- creating a contrast or going for the unexpected. I have a great love for accessories and used to wear hats a lot in my late teens/early twenties- everything from berets to elaborate statement pieces with a dramatically long feather- stuff that literally stopped people in their tracks.

“When I stopped focusing on myself and sought opportunities for making a difference for others, my whole world changed forever.”

If you had to describe yourself as a pair of your shoes, which pair would they be?

Definitely my black Gortex Ara boots – totally plain with a comfortable 2 inch heel. They always keep me dry and warm in even the wettest, iciest conditions but look elegant. I can even walk in them…for miles!

What do you want to see more of?

I want to see a focus on beauty as well as function. I think aesthetics are neglected and it is a psychological driver for sustainability. Beauty has enormous worth and we should actively pursue it in all the consumer choices we make. Choose one beautiful thing and treasure it instead of buying many cheaper utilitarian but uncherished products that you may throw away because they don’t have enduring value.

What would you say to young women who want to create magic in their lives and for others?

What are you waiting for? Everything that will happen in your life, for the rest of your life, is up to you. Own it.

Penny for YOUR thoughts.What did you get out of this post? Do you think everyone is creative? How do you define innovation? Leave a comment and be part of the community.

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