Kate O'Keeffe

Senior Director

Customer and Partner Innovation

Kate O’Keeffe is Cisco’s Senior Director of Customer and Partner Innovation. She brings a wealth of experience in innovation and entrepreneurship to her role, driving new customer solutions within Cisco’s engineering organization.

Prior to her current role, Kate was founder and leader of Cisco CHILL, a co-innovation catalyst designed to drive disruptive innovation with and for Cisco customers. Her passion to solve bold problems that don’t yet have answers grew out of her long-term desire to find better, faster ways to approach big global issues such as environmental and population challenges. With CHILL, she developed a unique methodology that leapfrogged traditional innovation processes to spark broad industry change. During the three years of CHILL innovation, a full 70 percent of ideas progressed to further stages, resulting in two start-ups, seven patents, and more than 20 joint projects and internal growth initiatives. She continues to drive the CHILL co-innovation methodology in her current role.

Previously Kate was the global leader of the Services Innovation Excellence Center at Cisco, where she was responsible for driving sustainable innovation capability for Cisco Services. The practice is based on an Innovation Maturity Model, devised to provide a clear pathway for businesses to build sustainable, measureable innovation capability.

Prior to Cisco, Kate led innovation for an Australian-based corporation in the utilities sector.

As a native of Melbourne, Kate proved her entrepreneurial chops as a fashion designer by founding, building, and exiting a successful shoe business, Cinderella Bella.

She holds a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and is the recipient of numerous industry awards and recognitions, including the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize: Innovating Innovation Challenge. Kate was also named one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business” and included in the Anita Borg Institute’s annual Women of Vision awards. Most recently, Kate was named one of the Upstart 50 2018 by the San Francisco Business Times and Silicon Valley Business Journal.

She is co-author of “Managing Multiparty Innovation,” which was published in the Harvard Business Review in November, 2016.


November 15, 2018


How to Turn Customer Obsession into Customer Success

Most enterprises see the importance of putting customers at the center, but first you have to understand who your customers are.

August 24, 2018


Experience Design: Meeting User Needs, One Good Conversation at a Time

New technologies can be exciting. But great design starts with the user, not the technology.

July 12, 2018


Prototyping for Impact: Hunt Zombies, Kill Your Darlings, and Prototype Like a Star

Impact prototyping speeds innovation outcomes—but you might have to hunt a few zombies.

June 22, 2018


Innovating Business Sustainability

Business sustainability is an area ripe for sweeping, cross-industry innovation.

May 31, 2018


Techno Panics 2.0: What Do Paint Rollers and Self-Driving Cars Have in Common?

Paint rollers and self-driving cars have a lot in common – they represent a huge leap forward in productivity and innovation, and they force us to confront our fears about change.

May 17, 2018


Taking a Learning Journey to Innovation

Where can industry-wide multiparty innovation truly make a difference? Exploring cutting-edge startups with our customers to learn and set the stage for innovation.

May 3, 2018


Innovation Leaders: Always Learning

Innovation leaders work together to explore new approaches to the old problem of sparking innovation in sometimes sluggish corporations.

April 19, 2018


Message to Women: Disrupt the Ordinary, Be Yourself!

Thought-provoking and inspirational day for 3,400 women (and some outstanding men!) to Disrupt the Ordinary at the 39th Annual Simmons Leadership Conference.