5 lessons from AMP on driving disruptive digital thinking

Founder of AMP's Amplify Festival shares how event is helping to drive a better customer vision at the financial services company by opening up innovation opportunities

The biggest challenge organisations face in addressing digital disruption is building an ability to hack into their culture, processes and thinking, AMP’s Amplify festival founder and curator claims.

Speaking at the Social Business conference at this year’s CeBIT event in Sydney, Annalie Killian said incumbent and large organisations have struggled with how to embrace digital marketing and online platforms as a way to attract and grow the customer base, and therefore grow the overall business.

Killian said the way forward is learning how to hack growth. But rather than just appoint a chief digital officer, she said digital disruption challenges every part of the organisation, and should be addressed by the whole culture and employee base.

“If it’s the chief digital officer’s job but not everyone’s job, you’re still at risk of becoming a dinosaur,” she said. “You’ll end up going back to organisation that has leadership and control style and learnt how businesses operated from Harvard Business School.

'“The disruptors eating our businesses today are not playing by the same rules – they never went to business school and instead learnt by staying in the fast lane and hacking with new platforms, getting in there and just doing it. The challenge and biggest paradox is how to run an existing business in a way that allows you to manage both the core business, as well as lead for innovation.”

One way AMP is endeavouring to both satisfy market and shareholder demand for predictability and returns, as well as inspire innovation, is through its week-long Amplify Festival.

“What we have done in Amplify is created a platform that has become the vehicle for empowerment for an entire ecosystem that then sets the vision of the company, which is about helping our customers own tomorrow,” Killian said.

The Amplify Festival was first launched by AMP as an experiment in 2005 with partners and suppliers, but has steadily grown and expanded to fuel AMP’s customer-led business vision while also becoming a well-recognised business event in its own right, she said. The event is designed to provide an open exchange for ideas not only across employees working for AMP, but also with external companies, partners and customers.

“It’s not just an event – we have turned the whole company into a ‘story doing’ place,” Killian said.

“It’s about creating a safe space for the exploration of ideas which are frankly scary, radical, disruptive and threatening to most people. But in process of exploring and engaging with ideas, your mindset flips and you start seeing these from the perceptive of servicing your strategy.

“We scour for the disruptive and leading architects of business globally today, then give everyone in the business the opportunity to learn from these people. We also borrow from design thinkers and the arts to optimise learning process through metaphor, story and embodiment.”

Killian said AMP had found the best way to learn systems thinking and complex problem solving is by physically making something. “That process of making it all work together means you have to solve logistics problems around them,” she continued.

Amplify also encompasses human centred design labs, hackfests and expos aimed at turnning graduates into hackers, so they can learn fast, Killian said.

“We constrain time and resources to solve problems in a way the traditional business approach won’t,” she said. “During Amplify week, we turn the business inside out, and disrupt what it means to work in traditional financial services company. This kicks off with our ideas expo [day] where business partners, employees and even some customers can share ideas.”

Killian then outlined five mantras that guide AMP’s approach to disrupting its business models and drive more innovative thinking.

  1. Setting grand challenges for grand vision that everyone can buy into. “We have a powerful narrative that everyone can embrace,” Killian said.

  2. Answer questions with experiments. “There are no clear answers, and you will have to hack through the forest of unknown,” she said.

  3. Prepare the organisation for new ideas through activities such as hackfests, events and programs of hands-on activity.

  4. Timebox resources, set milestone dates and measure.

  5. Combine serendipity and diversity of heuristics and skills. “The big challenge is we hire in our own image...we can have too much bias in our leadership,” Killian said.

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