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If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many is a mural worth?

When we last met, community evangelist Marilyn Pratt gave me a new challenge: stream a 6 meter mural through a window the size of a Post-it. I thought that it would be easy…but that was before I realized that the mural first had to be captured into a video before I could go anywhere with it!

But no matter how hard this seemed at the beginning, by then I had heard so much about the SAP TechEd ’07 murals that I couldn’t just give up.

Yesterday’s news?

Many of you might be thinking: yeah, the mural is old news, I have a picture of it. Well, is it old news? Many of the themes in the mural didn’t seem like overnight quick fixes.  I’m pretty sure that some or perhaps even all of them are still relevant.  Keep in mind that April sits midway between the last and fast coming TechEd season, making it a great time for a mid-year checkup on all the post-SAP TechEd plans and ideas to deal with what was illustrated in the murals.

So, tell me, how have things been going over the last six months?  Are you further ahead? Have you overcome any challenges or hurdles?  Any success stories? Maybe you want to share some insight on some new ideas and approaches you’ve tried? Still stuck somewhere?

Chasing Murals…

I’ve got a small passion for murals.  It started with the mural in the cafe where I had breakfast most Saturday’s in Irapuato, Mexico.  Then it became a few weekends in Mexico DF tracking down Diego Rivera’s many epic creations scattered throughout that enormous city of 20 million souls.  What I love about murals is their ability to vividly capture a moment in time and illustrate how things are (or were).  They are like a primitive form of television because it’s just too easy to become fully engaged in them with their careful selection of visual cues.

A great example is Diego Rivera’s “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.” What you see below is a collage of 10 pictures I took back in 2005. (Yes, it was that big and their are even bigger ones a few blocks away.)  Glancing (or reading?) from left to right is Diego’s portrayal of Mexico’s tumultuous history since the arrival of the Spaniards.  Mexico’s history is fascinating and Diego’s ability to capture all the emotions and conflicts throughout this period of time, without the use of words, is simply remarkable:

Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park

When I first saw the SAP TechEd ’07 Mural 1 in it’s entirety, what came to mind was imagining the process involved. The artist, Nancy Marguiles, did a an incredible job taking your ideas and giving them life through illustration. In fact, not only illustrating them but connecting the ideas and issues, and then making them flow into each other. The community also deserves credit for being so open and descriptive: Nancy, perhaps like myself before starting at SAP, probably thought that ABAP was more likely a Swedish Jazz fusion band rather than a programming language.

Mural 1

As promised, here is the mural streaming through a window the size of a Post-it:

You can also download the media file (WMV 100 MB)

What do you think?

From the mural I pulled three important themes that I start describing below.  My hope is that this can develop into a community dialog via the corresponding wiki where you can share your comments and thoughts on the these themes.  On the wiki are the matching snapshots from the mural.

Geeks Vs. Suits

I’m certain that more than a few of us have a few choice words on this theme. Bridging the gap between both sides is a remarkable task and it’s no wonder that the need for Business Process Experts is growing: so that organizations don’t suffer the same fate as the Tower of Babel. Meanwhile, something else interesting I noticed on the mural is that even within the geeks camp there are geek dialects creating barriers between them when they try to collaborate against the suits. This is unlike the highly structured and buzz word driven world of the suits and their MBAs.

Community and Progress

Before SAP, I worked at a bank and, before that, in the fashion world. Both of these industries are notoriously secretive about their processes: banking for security reasons and fashion because of the heavy competition. It was really eye opening to witness the SDN phenomenon where a lively community of a 1,000,000+ members from organizations worldwide share ideas, collaborate and help each other.  The amount of information exchanged within the community online and offline at events pales in comparison to the many morning I’d sit at Café Gentile eavesdropping on my fellow garment engineers.

The theme of cooperation and sharing manifests itself clearly on the mural: the community offers learning, mentors, a common workspace, solutions, introspect, inspiration, networking, non-stop action and even a shoulder to cry on once in a while.

The Future is Now

There’s an African proverb that goes like this: “tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” Well, you are the people preparing for tomorrow!  Many of the innovations presented, discussed and theorized at SAP TechEd have incredible potential to change the everyday lives of millions or maybe even billions of people worldwide—more so than a fancy new white gadget. At the same time, constant innovation presents a continuing challenge to adapt to emerging technologies. Gone are the days of “lets wait and see” when new standards can be set literally overnight.

Worth How Many?

To answer my question at the beginning, I think that if a picture is worth a thousand words, a mural has the potential for a thousand concepts.

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  1. Marilyn Pratt
    Thanks for doing this Jason.  And I appreciate your writing about the tremendous impact of Nancy’s work and the community’s participation in creating this remarkable storyboard.  I too like to think of the mural as the backdrop for even more connections and a deepening of relations.  I wish there was some way of having even higher definition and using this as a kind of moving screensaver to review and to flow with on personal blogs as well as in our framework.  Much of the inspiration of “Community Cares” was captured here: from Wii hands to Food for Points (it was born here in a manner of speaking).  Blogger, James Governor said that the mural could be a kind of “social marker”. Wonder what others think about how it could be further used and shared.
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