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Hollywood loves making movies about high school situations. Typically, a high school kid has some major disaster in his home life that forces him to move from the upper-crust private school to a grungy public school. This student ALWAYS wears his former uniform, complete with crested coat and school tie, on his first day at the new school. Of course, this means that the new kid will be ridiculed, pummelled, and gaped at.

The movie unfolds to show how this misfit triumphs socially by introducing new ideas or some new approach to his new classmates. This student must change more than his clothes to meet his new classmates halfway. He must simultaneously convince them to come halfway to his point of view. Everybody gets to change some of their patterns, grow a little, and either better harass or simply astound the school staff. Happy ending for all concerned.

Many different groups have unspoken rules about behavior. How you dress, how your cube or office is decorated, what topics are discussed, how things get done. This can be great for group cohesion, though it can also be very limiting. In the book Group Genius, author Keith Sawyer writes that the best innovations come from groups that have differences. The closer they are in beliefs and behavior, the more likely that there will be less, real creative thinking and possibly more ‘groupthink’ blind spots.

Diversity pays off, in broadening horizons and helping see beyond our typical frame of reference. The kinds of pay-offs comes in many ways: better ideas, better insight, stronger solutions, broader frames of reference, and interesting people to work around. This may mean living with a little friction and irritation.

In the Hollywood movies, everyone has to learn how to meet each other at a middle ground. They are transformed because they are willing to consider other voices, other opinions, different ways of doing things. An oyster creates a pearl because of the irritation created by an outside substance. Don’t dismiss, too quickly, others and their ideas that might be a little irritating and a bit different. It might just be their equivalent first day at a new school and possibly you might get a pearl, of wisdom.  

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    1. Bob McGlynn Post author
      Vish,
      The short answer is that, yes- I feel very much like the new kid at a new school, though I haven’t been pummelled by anyone.
      The longer answer is to look at broader implications, rather than just me or the other individual “new kids” from the acquired companies.
      There are important strategic reasons that SAP acquired these two companies.
      I would encourage you to also think of those technologies as the “new kid”. Both have to be integrated into the larger SAP platform as well as introducing new ideas and new approaches for SAP – just the same as with the whole meeting, understanding, learning, and finding common ground experience.
      New people are always coming into SAP. Sometimes, at a big company, the impact of the new is felt only when it is at a broader scale. Whether it’s SSM and BPC, which came through acquisition, or Business ByDesign, which was designed totally in-house, all add different approaches and ideas – and have to go through the “new kid at school” stuff.
      The trick is finding the same awkward moments, the pushing and shoving that goes along with that big stuff and try to learn from it, find common ground, and get that Hollywood happy-ending.
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  1. Marilyn Pratt
    Interesting how diverse we can be in our reactions to what we read.  I found this very inspiring.  Reading this reminded me how valuable it is to have varied styles, talents, approaches in a team.  Interesting that Vish saw correlations or relevance to recent software acquisitions.  I’m sure both responses to your blog are valid.  That’s what good, thought provoking material can do for us: it opens rather than closes interpretations.
    I’ll also draw a connection to the community and the geek suit collaboration (rather than gap).  Sometimes, when one is caught in the trap of thinking why “they” can’t think more like “us”  we need reminders of the value of complementary roles and even a bit of constructive, or pearl encouraging…..friction.  I’d like to believe that somewhere between thesis and antithesis there is synthesis.
    And I’m so glad you are going to be in Community Day in Las Vegas, Bob.  I think you will find interesting community members to dialogue with during the Geek Suit Conversation and I hope some of what you have expressed can be applied to bridging gaps.
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