Boom chicka wah wah of fabulous women by Jane Copeland

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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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Chaos theory practiced – a Twitter case study



My grand schema to chronicle the planning of the 2009 AMP Innovation & Thought Leadership Festival in this blog has been sitting in this draft box for months as I beaver away in the wee hours of the night working on the Festival – my dysfunctional “perfectionism ideal” the obstacle between this blog living an imperfect life “out there” and slumbering in the collective unconscious.


Because my whole weekend was consumed with delicious immersion in an exciting new world I never knew existed, thanks to a tiny tweet by one Chris Brogan, blogger extra-ordinaire,  

I am herewith catapulting over that self-hindrance and boldly publishing – its too good to keep till I’m organised! 

Unstructured play

The twitterings of the Brogan birdie in Boston, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil, instantly relayed to one maverickwoman on a sunny Saturday in Sydney, led me to Annarchy, who introduced me to

the genius of poet Taylor Mali ( imagine a 30 something cross between Patrick Swayze, Mr Chips and William Shakespeare)

which meant hours of exhiliarating inspiration on YouTube, which brought me to the Bowery Theatre in New York,  and the discovery of an artistic genre  Slam Poetry  that I had never heard of, which led to Mayhem Poets and their brilliant new venture pitch for a business called “Slam Chops”, which won the Microsoft IdeasWin Competition.

You still with me? This created various other connections with my corporate “open innovation” work, but also “must-have” purchases on Amazon, which led to Facebook and 

an invitation to Taylor Mali to co-create magic with an unlikely partner, a Financial Services corporation, at the AMP Innovation & Thought Leadership Festival in Australia in June 2009.

Who knows where all this may end? I don’t, but what I DO know is that it WILL be powerful, and people will be inspired, our company could be transformed, and in turn, generations of customers and their children may be changed as a result of it!  Maybe the whole future of Australia!

It was Taylor’s poem, “What teachers make”, that kept my inner matchmaker awash with ideas all weekend.
I hauled Scott Schwertly, Zen guru of pictorial storytelling, out of bed on a Saturday night in Nashville Tennesee.  Through Twitter, I knew that Scott’s company, Ethos3 Communication, is working on entries for the Slideshare 2008 presentation contest (They came second in the 2007 Slideshare contest with “Meet Henry“).  Knowing the history and impact of “Did you know/Shift happens 2.0”  –  winner of the 2007 Slideshare presentation contest, I thought a creative partnership between these two creative geniuses could help realise Taylor’s vision. I am happy to report that magic happened, and a union is being forged as we speak!

But, I couldnt help myself- had to go one step further.  

Through Facebook, I connected Taylor with Dan Pink, visionary wordsmith who speaks fluent “Corporatese” and compellingly explains in plain talk to business leaders why creativity and the arts is fundamental to future of their businesses.  I first met Dan at the Creativity World Forum in Flanders in 2006, where he shared the stage with Sir Ken Robinson (voted one of TED’s best presenters for his passionate plea for nurturing creativity in schools- that education connection!). 

Dan was chief speechwriter for Al Gore while he was in the White House, and we all know how Al Gore’s artful storytelling has convinced the world, one presentation at a time, that the time for action on climate change is NOW!  And Dan and Scott are vectors for spreading stories!


Power of one idea
All the people I mention in this post, Mr Gore included, have had a catalytic influence on me and my work as a practical radical and corporate change agent, and I see it as nothing but a pleasure to help along the dreams and aspirations of others.  I am a child of Africa who worked in the crucible of peaceful transformation to democracy in South Africa. I know the power of one butterfly’s wings!