January 21, 2020

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Annalie Killian: Building a New Archetype of Innovative Entrepreneur

In this series we tell the stories of real Game Changing Entrepreneurs and how they pursue and pull off seemingly impossible feats of change through their business practices.


By Carol Sanford

Part of the Big Promise Entrepreneurs series

The entrepreneur’s path is to build and grow a business with the intention to make fundamental changes well beyond being a good business itself, or even ensuring the values embedded in its way of operating are right. Big Promise Entrepreneurs (BPEs) pursue “keystone” actions to change industries, social systems, cultural paradigms and governance infrastructure.

I call industry changers: “Realization Entrepreneurs.” They see realities most of us miss and even define reality differently (e.g., Steve Jobs and the reality distortion field). Indigenous Designs is another great example. And, in my new book, I call social system changers: “Reconnection Entrepreneurs.”

In Cheryl Contee’s story, featured in the last post, we saw how a realization entrepreneur can awaken an awareness to reshape a dysfunctional system into a cradle-to-cradle, or circular, model. But, now, we’ll entrepreneurs who shift cultural paradigms: “Reciprocity Entrepreneurs” – those whose primary goals are focused on holistic balance—to reciprocitymake clear how interdependent we are.

Reciprocity Entrepreneurs

Reciprocity entrepreneurs ask, “What is good for the whole, through time, and not just for this moment or for one group?” Most people work on what they think is good, but overlook other voices and different perspectives. When in this archetype role, the entrepreneur seeks to tell the story from different perspectives and mindsets.

The media often presents conflicting views so as to appear as giving a picture of the whole. But since they are, in fact, presented as competing views, they fail to serve as windows into what would actually make the story whole.

Annalie Killian – Accountant Turned CSR Leader 

We’ll be exploring the reciprocity entrepreneur archetype through the lens of Annalie Killian, who is the Director of Innovation, Communication & Social Business at AMP Ltd. Killian helps people break out of their entrenched financial paradigms to see that they are part of a world that is larger, more complex and more interesting than finance alone.

Killian started her career South Africa in 1987 at the mining and energy company BHP Billiton. She was tasked with introducing Quality Circles – a Japanese-invented management approach – to the aluminum smelter operations.

She was mindful of the political milieu in South Africa at the time, when the nation was undergoing intense change during the lead-up to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. In her new role, she became increasingly aware of the aspirations of the mostly black employees she was working with, who had endured a long history of exploitation in the workplace. Simultaneously, she was appointed to a regional election council leading up to the first free elections.

Annalie set out to convince the white company leadership that it was necessary for the new black leadership to succeed so that everyone could succeed. As a white woman, she at least had a voice, but she was working against the established paradigm. Over the next year, she shifted generations of cultural beliefs that seemed too entrenched to move, helping her company and enabling it to help her country.

Shifting Focus from Product to Community

As part of this pursuit, Killian convinced Billiton Aluminum to its shift focus from productivity improvement at the plant level to capacity building at the community level. The company was in the middle of building the largest new aluminum smelter in the world and had constructed a work camp for the 35,000 laborers needed on the project. Annalie saw a major opportunity for the company to anticipate and prepare for the end of apartheid, and she convinced management to completely rethink how to use this camp and facilities at the end of the project as an engine for community development.

The original plan had been to tear it down and sell it for scrap once the smelter project was completed. Instead she proposed it be repurposed as a community college campus and small business incubator. Her ambition was to grow the economic, educational and self-governance skills of the black population so they could flourish in the new South Africa, thereby ensuring a peaceful and prosperous transition for all.

Members of the local community were given extensive training in re-purposing the buildings as schools in communities that had no school facilities, earning construction worker Zululand-mapqualifications in the process.

The high profile nature of the project attracted participation from a “United Nations of NGOs” working throughout Zululand, many of whom eventually established permanent offices onsite in an NGO-filled office park. Ultimately, the management of the camp was turned over to a locally established non-profit governing entity that has continued to manage it as a community resource and has rented space to a wide variety of NGOs and businesses to ensure its long-term viability.

One can readily see Annalie Killian’s ambitious way of working on “wholeness.” In South Africa, she helped BHP Billiton change itself and the world by seeing itself as helping a new nation as it came into existence; and in the process, confront and transform the unconscious patterns that had helped to disenfranchise the majority of its countrymen. Her ideas allowed the company and the community to use building a new plant as an opportunity to help build a new nation.

Read more of Annalie’s story (and other Game Changing Entrepreneurs) in Game Changing Entrepreneurs: Four Innovation Archetypes for Founders, Leaders and Impact Investors, (July 2014 Jossey Bass). Sign up for notice and take the quiz at www.ResponsibleTrep.com. As a member, you can also watch video interviews with Game Changing Entrepreneurs and buy courses so they can teach you how to take on such challenges and make that difference.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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