Stretching Minds to Rethink, Rewire and Relate with Annalie Killian

May 26, 2015
Min read

Annalie Killian brings a little bit of magic to just about everything she does.

As the founder and curator of Amplify, AMP’s biannual celebration of learning and creativity, she has been finding innovative ways to inspire corporate employees since she created Amplify in 2005. When she’s not Amplifying, she is catalysing magic as AMP’s Director of Innovation, Communication and Social Business. She also speaks regularly on the topic of Innovation at a range of events including TedX , CeBIT, Daze of Disruption and as an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney.

Annalie’s magic touch has seen the Amplify Festival evolve from a staff event to a leading business innovation platform for leaders, strategists, decision-makers, financial advisers, customers and employees. Meeco will be exhibiting at the festival this year and I was lucky enough to squeeze some time with Annalie during the ramp up for a little chat.

What inspired you to create Amplify?

I created the first Amplify in 2005 as an expo to bring the entrepreneurial thinking which I had seen in the start-up community to the Innovation teams I was working with at AMP. I asked the teams I was working with ‘If you were running this company and you had a magic wand, what would you like to see us invest in to prepare for tomorrow and make this business more resilient?’

“The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization's ability to learn faster than the competition.” - Peter Senge

Before that, I don’t think that people really considered learning as part of work. People would think work is where you sit at your computer and you are doing emails and you are busy, whereas learning is stepping away from that to explore. So I thought it was really important to change that mindset.

I was also inspired by Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline who said: “The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization's ability to learn faster than the competition.”

How has Amplify evolved over time?

We have very deliberately grown Amplify beyond AMP as a public event- because when the entire business eco-system becomes involved, change is much more sustainable. Probably the biggest milestone this year is that we have a large involvement by the Australian business community as partners. That in itself is an enormous testimony to esteem in which amplify is held, and the value it creates in the business community.

This year is also special in the sense that we be going global! For the first time, we will be in New Zealand, as well as Sydney and Melbourne.

Tell me about this year's theme, 'Rethink everything.'

It's Rethink Everything: Rewire, This year's theme has been very much inspired by one of my favourite strategy thought leaders, professor Rita McGrath. I read her book, 'The End of Competitive Advantage' just before Amplify 2013 and thought 'This is my curatorial inspiration for Amplify 2015'. It was just so rich in terms of encapsulating how businesses have to rewire structurally, refire leadership, culture and skills and transform the way they relate to customers and communities to transcend the industrial age into the digital age.

How do you decide on the topics for Amplify each year?

I see Amplify as a catalyst for thinking that needs to be five to ten years out. I typically look at emerging trends and technological disruption and then work out which ones would have relevance for our business audience.

“I see Amplify as a catalyst for thinking that needs to be five to ten years out.”

The biggest challenge I have with curation is not what I put in, but what I leave out! I only have 32 keynote slots so it's really challenging to work out which topics to touch on.

I think it's a combination of intuition, artistic flare and the ability to craft a narrative over the week that hangs together, creates a learning tension as well as an immediate call to action and making sure that speakers are available to fit in with our agenda given these are people in very high demand globally.

Sounds like a big job! How do you manage to pull it all together?

It is huge, but it is absolutely so rewarding and I have an amazing team of people so I would be remiss not to pay tribute and honour to my team who are so inspired that I have to beg them to go home at night.

One of the unique elements of the experience is working with the employees that we crowd-source each year to become a buddy for each speaker. The buddy becomes their go-to person and ambassador for AMP in hosting the speaker and developing a relationship with them and introducing them in Amplify. They also manage the interviews which are live- streamed to the universe.

“A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

We team these volunteers up with performance coaching and the way their confidence grows is amazing. I have seen many of these past speaker buddies and Amplify volunteers go on to be promoted inside the company as they develop new skills, confidence and grow a higher profile as a consequence of their participation in Amplify. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to it's original dimensions."

So if you wanted to boil Amplify down in a nutshell, I think that’s what it’s all about. Stretching the collective minds of not only AMP, but everyone who participates.

New monetary systems, alternative currencies, radical longevity, industries of the future and the evolution of decision-making are just a few of the fascinating topics that will be covered at this year’s Amplify from June 1-5. Keep your eye out for our follow up blog post in the coming weeks which will delve further into these topics…

Limited tickets for Amplify are still available, click here to find out more!

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