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Author's profile photo Mark Finnern

Culture Jamming SAP

A couple of weeks ago Mark Yolton was invited to an offsite by Jonathan Becher, SAP’s newly minted Chief Marketing Officer.

Mark told me how inspired he was by the event. Jonathan quoted Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”.

If your strategy doesn’t align with the underlying culture of the organization you will fail. First change the culture if it doesn’t align with your new strategy. But cultural change is hard.

I thought about it and realized that jamming SAP culture is one of the greatest things SAP Mentors do, and they do it all the time.

Wikipedia defines culture jamming as a tactic used by many anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert mainstream cultural institutions, including corporate advertising.

In the context of the SAP Mentors I see culture jamming differently. It is a positive force that uses events, iconography, posters, webinars and social media to nudge SAP to embrace a more open, sharing, collaborative culture.

In 2007 when I created the SAP Mentor initiative, I wanted us to be easily recognizable. An icon. I zeroed in on the “O” in SAP Mentors and thought it would symbolize a shining sun, the light that the mentors bring to everything they do. I added the “!” exclamation point to add weight: SAP Mentors are willing to state their opinion.

I was proud, especially when the miracle of all miracles ocured: it got the O.K. from SAP branding. I introduced the shining sun to the mentors; but without missing a beat, and if memory serves me well, it was Jim Spath, who brought me back to earth by simply calling it the mentor lemon.

Once in a while I would remind people of the original meaning but knew that was a lost cause. It will forever be the mentor lemon and I actually enjoy that.

If you want your influencer community group to thrive, take a page from Improv Comedy. “Yes, and …” are the two words that link improve scenes together and enable the flow of ideas and the improv magic to happen.

With these words, you ensure to build upon the ideas of the people that came before you. A “NO” stops everyone in their tracks and is hard to overcome without feeling forced. It may also be the key to success in life: embrace and improve the ideas of everyone around you and life’s riches will flow in your direction. A new The Secret book coming up next fall ;-).

I am almost half-way there, being known for saying “Yes, but …”. I am working on the “and” part.

In chronological order here are more examples of SAP Mentors jamming SAP culture including the differences they made.

Culture jamming: Open Thinking

Once the SAP Mentor logo was out Oliver Kohl took it and created a screen saver adding a new tag line that we SAP Mentors embraced: Open Thinking.

Culture jamming: Frickin’ Amazing!

Many of the SAP Mentors are fans of Hugh McLeod. But then there is Dennis Howlett, who has many of McLeod’s prints hanging in his home in Spain. Dennis especially loved this one.

Dennis approached Mark Yolton, Mike Prosceno and me about getting prints for all the mentors.

We accepted the challenge, shared the cost and expanded on the idea. We gave every mentor two prints. We gave them one to keep and one to give away to someone who did a frickin’ amazing job in the larger SAP community.

Mike Prosceno was even able to get them to share it with SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott.

Bill McDormott getting print

Picture by Martin Gillet

These interactions lead to the forming of the SAP certification council with SAP user groups, partners and SAP Mentors working on improving SAP certification.

Last week in Madrid we brought the print back, and Dennis during the blooger dinner organized by Stacey Fish from Global Communications, he gave one to SAP’s other Co-CEO Jim Snabe.

Picture by Harald Reiter (?)

Culturejamming: SAP Mentor Stickers

The king of SAP Mentor stickers is Martin Gillet. He found a place to print them, came up with some cool culture jamming slogans and is sharing them freely with everyone.

Pictures by Martin Gillet. Compostition Mark Finnern

When the SAP Mentors were at DKOM they swarmed SAP founder Hasso Plattner, put a sticker in his hand and took the following picture:

Picture by Martin Gillet

I would never have dreamed that SAP Mentors would meet Hasso Plattner, but I used the above picture to ask whether he would meet with us. I am convinced that the picture piqued his interest, and it was the reason he made room in his busy schedule at Sapphire in Orlando.

Picture by Martin Gillet (?)

I am still pinching myself from the former, and then who walks in? Jim Snabe, pointing to the SAP Mentor button he got from John Appleby at the Global Communications reception the night before and says: “I am an honorary SAP Mentor. I can join this meeting.” and sits down.

Culture jamming: Blue SAP Mentor shirts

I believe one of the ways I brought innovation into our culture is through our distinctive blue shirts. People want them. The shirts bind the SAP Mentor “Wolfpack” and create a succinct identity.

Here is the original design from 2007, the legendary rugby shirt. All SAP Mentors got their own number and twitter handle or whatever they wanted on the back.

It has made a difference in so many ways. I love to walk on the big SAP TechEd showfloor, and with one glance I am able to find my fellow SAP Mentors.

We also give the shirts out to honor people who made a difference for the SAP community cause. Here is Vishal Sikka getting his shirt last year.

Picture by SAP TechEd Team

Culture jamming: What would @marilynpratt do?

The original source for the “What would @marilynpratt do” [WWMPD] Twitter meme is at the time of this writing still under investigation ;-).

Marilyn Pratt is SCN’s most amazing community evangelist. Her latest achievement was a series she called Embracing Inclusion – Driving Innovation : An Introduction which was paired with design thinking workshops during TechEd in Las Vegas, Bangalore and Madrid.

Her integrity, warmth and caring is part of everything she does. The realization between mentors and non-mentors of the SCN community was, that her behaviour is exceptional and a shining example for others to mimik: WWMPD. A flash mob was organized to honor her and was flawlessly executed last week in Madrid. [Video by Dennis Howlett]

Picture by Martin Gillet

To be part of that flash mob to honor Marilyn’s tireless community effort was a highlight of my career.

Culture jamming: #suithugger 

The other meme that the mentors triggered in Madrid was hugging a suit. For the first time SapphireNow and SAP TechEd were co-located in Madrid. During the Demo Jam Ian Kimball told the geeks in the audience “if you see ‘a suit’, be kind to them.”

Chris Kernaghan and Oliver Kohl picked up Ian’s suggestion and started a #suithugger meme. Meet a suit, hug him, capture it and share the picture on the internet.

   Picture by Oliver Kohl
At first ‘the suits’ were a bit cautious, but then they literally embraced the idea. I heard over and over “Have you been hugged already?”

The list of SAP Mentors culture jamming SAP is impressive. It made us more open, collaborative and most of all we all have more fun. I assure you these examples are only the tip of the iceberg.

These amazing mentors are able to weave serious business with light-hearted fun. I recall Björn Goerke, Senior Vice President for SAP NetWeaver and the Technology Foundation, our guest for an intense interactive webinar. His last remarks, shaking his head, were “you guys [SAP Mentors] always seem to have fun.”

I feel privileged to be part of this group. We are able to toe that thin line between serious business and having a lot of fun while creating results.

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      Author's profile photo Tom Cenens
      Tom Cenens
      Hello Mark

      Great blog and you can be very proud of the SAP Mentors. I had the honor to meet many of them (including you) at SAP TechED Madrid and I had an amazing time.

      Of course I didn't expect anything else but what did suprise me is that my colleague who came along to SAP TechED said afterwards that he now "gets it".

      He now gets what the SAP Mentors are about and what the SCN Community is about. He even said he would consider stepping up and becoming active in the community which of course makes me happy because I keep telling everyone how wonderful the SCN community is and how it can positively affect your work and even your own life.

      The flashmob for Marilyn was great and well deserved, she is so inspiring. In fact many of the SAP Mentors have a special something about them and they are very approachable.

      I loved the #suithugger tag as well, that was really funny.

      Kind regards


      Author's profile photo Jim Spath
      Jim Spath
      'Twas not I who coined the "Mentor Lemon" phrase, but it's swell that you think I did, Mark.  My memory has Blag naming it as such, though I've been wrong before.

      Great blog post.

      What's next?

      Author's profile photo Matthias Steiner
      Matthias Steiner
      So, finally we have found the originating tweet.

      The theme was brought up by Ram Manohar Tiwari tweeting to Jan Penninkhof: RT @rmtiwari: @jpenninkhof when you are angry, think how @marilynpratt would have commented/handled πŸ˜‰

      Author's profile photo Graham Robinson
      Graham Robinson
      I don't know what an SAP Mentor is but I know one when I see one.

      And I see @finnern and @marilynpratt very clearly.

      Graham Robbo

      Author's profile photo Matthias Steiner
      Matthias Steiner
      True words Graham (as always!)

      Yet, that's the dilemma with the initiative and also what fascinates me the most: the list of names that should be mentioned in the same sentence seems incredibly long. I see yours right there as well. And soo many others of which only a few have been mentioned - and that's right as there's the complete listing elsewhere! πŸ˜‰

      Still, I'd want to mention another person that has become a vital and fundamental part of the program: the one and only Aslan!

      This one's for you buddy!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I really didn't know how the mentors came about.  I just knew that I admired them.  And that they influenced me, and the community at large.

      I like Graham still don't know what it means to be a Mentor, but I love it. 

      I loved all the pictures.  And I try to live by WWMPD.

      Great blog,


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thanks for a great post! I plan to share it with colleagues who are unclear on what the SAP Mentor initiative is about. Your post made me even more pleased and humbled to be a participant.