Innovation Leaders are Learners: Annalie Killian

Annalie Killian’s passion is combining humans and machines in ways that maximise creativity and grow performance and engagement.

She is currently curating a “cloud of human creativity” for sparks & honey, a cultural insights and innovation agency in New York, experimenting with exponential organizational design and reciprocal networks.

From 2000-2015 she was SVP of Innovation & Communication at AMP – an iconic Australian Financial Services brand. She founded the Amplify Festival of Innovation & Thought Leadership and over 10 years grew it into a globally-recognized engine for systemic and culture change across a business eco-system, and a vehicle for accelerating learning and organizational agility.

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What We Talked About

We discussed a range of topics, including:

  • Innovation and what it means
  • Leadership for the digital age
  • Resisters and saboteurs
  • Challenges of having responsibility for innovation
  • Pay equity for women
  • What keeps business owners awake at night

Plus a special invitation to people in or visiting New York

Innovation – Towards a Definition

Having researched the various formal definitions of innovation, Annalie found and liked this:

You’re innovative when other people say you’re innovative.

And added:

When people think you’re innovative, that’s when your brand has shifted.

Perceptions can change – example of Apple and Microsoft

Implicit in this part of the conversation was a shared surprise, as in, who would ever have thought we would be talking about Microsoft stealing a march on Apple in the innovation stakes?

(Microsoft) have sort of captured the imagination of the makers and the creators and those are the people at the edge.

Leadership for the Digital Age

It’s about leadership being open and curious and understanding that the context has shifted.

Leadership fundamentally starts with listening and not talking.

Resisters and Saboteurs

The biggest barriers to innovation in large corporations are leaders who are threatened by admitting that they don’t know the answers.

Iconic brands are brands that stay in tune with cultural shifts.

The biggest danger for leadership is not to be plugged into the edge.

We shared a memory of an exemplary moment of servant leadership by Peter Mason AM, former Chairman of AMP, who in a workshop Des led at an early Amplify festival was the first and only volunteer for an online experiment with a personal data aggregator. Annalie spoke very eloquently of his leadership and his support for innovation.

Challenges of Responsibility for Innovation

Don’t do it if you need popularity.

…if you’re going to be good at your job you’re going to get up people’s nose.

Pay Equity for Women

I paid tribute to the fact that Annalie had achieved so much in some very traditionally male dominated industries – mining, financial services and now, as she reminded me in terms of industry traditions, advertising. That led to a discussion about pay equity and a strong call by Annalie for those in a position to change the injustice of any current situation to take action to change that. I recalled that some 55 years ago my late mother had made a speech to a State conference of her political party on this very subject – such a long and unjustifiable time to fix what is wrong!

What Keeps Business Leaders Awake At Night?

Going back to our earlier conversation about leadership for the digital age, a big problem for some leaders is feeling they have to know everything, be in total command of everything, which is no longer feasible.

Annalie’s surefire remedy for leaderly sleeplessness:

Be a learner

And a related paraphrase of a comment by systems scientist Peter Senge:

The only sustainable advantage in the long run is to outlearn the competition.

More about Annalie and Contact Details


Annalie is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s First Movers Programme and in 2013 the Hargraves Institute for Innovation recognized her contribution to the Innovation Agenda in Australia.

Contact Details

Annalie is @Maverickwoman on Twitter. You can find her also on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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Des Walsh

Business coach and digital entrepreneur. With coach training from Coachville.com and its Graduate School of Coaching, and a founding member of the International Association of Coaching, Des has been coaching business owners and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. Over the same period he has also been actively engaged in promoting the business opportunities of the digital economy. He is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coach, and a certified specialist in social media strategy and affiliate marketing.

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