Wisdom all over

Last weekend I attended my first Wisdom 2.0 conference. What an experience!

I was really looking forward to it and I was not enchanted. I warmed-up during the week with the lunch with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on monday and the Facebook-hosted workshop on social interaction on wednesday (more information in my previous post).

As most of you may have heard this was the fifth and biggest Wisdom 2.0 conference, sold-out at 2000 attendees. The event was not a typical event for me – I am used to developer events. In contrast this one had many women, few engineers, neuroscientists, psychologists, professional coaches, HR executives, CEOs.

While you can watch recordings on the conference website I wanted to share my own thoughts and notes in this blog.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

Soren Gordhamer, who founded Wisdom 2.0 5 years ago, kicked off the event on Friday, welcoming the crowd and sharing his passion and excitement for the wisdom movement that this event has become a proof of. The first Wisdom 2.0 conference was held in a small place in Mountain View and had about 300 attendees…

Arturo Bejar from Facebook was the first presenter. He did a similar presentation as 2 days before during the Facebook-hosted workshop. He explained how Facebook are using the latest from the sciences of emotion and interaction to make their platform more humane. You can already witness improvements with the Facebook emoticons and the handling of those posts and pictures that someone may not like, for whatever reason.

Based on their platform popularity with teenagers and adults and the role it now plays in human interactions, Facebook ought to make sure they become a catalyst of mindful communities. Their work with UC Berkeley and the Greater Good Science Center are quite exciting and promising.

Lisa Kristine, professional photographer shared her Reflections on Presence from ancient cultures. She compared our cultures with ancients’ cultures. She said that a big difference lies in the fact that our cultures do not like and accept loneliness. We fly away from the present although rushing toward the future, not enjoying “this” moment. Ancient cultures recognized and enjoyed the power of silence or the charm of stillness. She encouraged all of us to fight to remove obstacles to stillness. She talked about Awe as an emotion everyone of us should cultivates as it expands openness and diminishes impatience. She recently consulted with several ancients, i.e. people who are +100 yr old, about their advice on how all of us can best help our world. Their response was:

“Help one another”.

Presence or being here in this moment, ready to help could be the ultimate tool for peacemaking. She finished her talk with this profound statement:

“Every moment we have a choice: generosity over greed, connection over isolation, awe over boredom, presence over all.”

The interview of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was touching. He seemed to want to make every possible effort to make Rwanda wiser and bring the country out of poverty. To Soren’s question “What do you expect from the US and other countries?”, I heard him say that he wants that Rwanda leads its own transformation and is looking more for partnerships with other countries such as the USA than for foreign interventions to bring Rwanda out of poverty.

Psychology professor Larry Rosen talked about The Great Human Experiment: Technology and the Brain. He talked about the pace of technological change and the impact that digital technologies have on our brains.

He presented the results of a recent study that he conducted about Focus. In this study he and his team studied how students study. It consisted in observing 279 students while studying. The students were either middle school, high school or college students. Each student was observed for 15 minutes. Every minute the observer reported on whether the student was on-task or off-task and what was on the computer screen. The results were quite interesting and scary as research shows that key predictors of school performance are attention and distraction. See for yourself:


Why can’t we pay attention? Science says that the biggest detractors are sensations and emotions. 67% teens check their phones every 15 minutes, sometimes addicted, sometimes obsessed. How can we focus better? He recommended to take technology breaks where we can use technology, for example 1 minute technology breaks every 15 minutes. He also recommended the following practices to reset or calm our brain: meditation, nature, art, exercise, laughter, hot bath, talking live, talking a foreign language, etc.

Remember his method, the ABC method: be Aware of the options, Breathe (and reset your brain), make good Choices!

Co-founder of Le Web Loic Le Meur talked about the Rise of meditation in the Tech Community. Five years ago, Loic was super skeptical about meditation. Loic used to be super connected: early twitter adopter, 50,000 tweets so far w/ an average of 30 tweets a day. He started to meditate 9 months ago because he realized that his life was “too much”. He started to meditate with apps. He realized that the more technology we have, the more we need to slow down. He found it funny that people who invented technology that keep us connected are the first ones to practice meditation. For example Ev Williams, co-founder and ex-CEO of Twitter meditates regularly and is now at the head of Medium. Loic just signed up for a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. He is scared of the silence, which I fully understand as I went through the same fear, but he is impatient to go. He said that he truly feels better now that he meditates. He is “never bored”, really as he turns inside whenever he waits here or there. He meditates regularly. He said that the meditation practice gives him ideas that he never had before, like if he had some “new space in his mind, which he can now access”. He met Mathieu Ricard in Davos. I met with Mathieu 3 years ago at a Mind and Life conference and his glow is transformative. Loic recently started to talk and blog about meditation because he feels that “no one should be ashamed of talking about meditation”.

Because it is good!

Jon Kabat Zin talked about Mindfulness in the world. He said that we’re often caught in our own impulses and emotions. The power of the “bees”, e.g. impulses and emotions, keep us far from ourselves. Meditation is an attempt to bring us back to ourselves, our essence. There is no place to go, nothing to do, nothing to attain. Humanity is much more than thought; we can start to understand its extent by looking inside ourselves. There we can find the most profound aspects of our being.

The motivation for mindfulness is to not miss your life. When your mind is not clouded by unnecessary things it is the best moment of your life…

A panel of Google executives, Karen May, Meng Tan and Bill Duane shared 3 steps to build Corporate Mindfulness the Google Way 

The panel started in a strange manner as protestors jumped on the stage and occupied it to protest against Google’s impact on skyrocketing house rental prices and resulting evictions in San Francisco. It took me some time to understand if the protest was fake or real. After a few minutes the organizers helped the protestors off the stage and the audience calmed down with the help of Bill Duane who brought all of us back on topic through a short meditation.

Karen talked about the importance of adopting a posture of respect at all time. She emphasized the importance of bringing our own practice of mindfulness, wisdom and compassion to our communities.

Meng talked about the importance of skillfulness all along the way to transform companies: at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. For skillfulness at the beginning we need to develop our own practice of mindfulness, wisdom, kindness and compassion. We also need to develop our ability to explain the teachings by understanding the science and its applicability to work. For skillfulness in the middle we need to extend the benefit to the self to others, e.g. individuals, teams and organizations. The holy grail is when everyone in an organization is wise and compassionate. For skillfulness in the end we need to create support for the practice, our own and that of others, using technologies and communities.

Bill talked about the importance of creating support networks in our organizations. He emphasized the importance of identifying who our true believers are. He said that it also helps to connect mindfulness and wisdom with issues that organizations care about, e.g. stress management, ethics, etc. We need to create inclusive communities with all, including the skeptics.

Karen talked about a few concrete practical examples that Google uses and that we could all try:

  • Google executives from People Operations start their meetings with 2 minute meditation.
  • Sometimes they substitute meditation with gratitude sessions or tai chi.
  • They share their experience with others and make that experience available for others to experience too.
  • They created several videos of guided 2 minutes meditation that they make available.

And of course they have a Search Inside Yourself curriculum that Meng developed and has become famous for.

Jonathan Rosenfeld from Medium talked about the Mindful workspace.

He said that proximity allies to generosity and compassion, which I have really seen and lived at home and work.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one that is the most adaptable to change. (Darwin).

He said that mindfulness is what makes a great organization. Mindfulness as:

Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, not judgmentally. (Kabat-Zinn)

Science and research show that anxiety reduces productivity. Medium has been trying to create an environment where anxiety is minimal or absent. Medium uses Holocracy, which is defined as:

A new operating system that instills rapid evolution in the core processes of an organization. Holocracy provides channels so anyone who senses tension can process it into organizational evolution. People become the sensors of a conscious organization, driving its continual evolution.

Holocracy requires mindfulness and the practice of holocracy supports mindfulness. Ev Williams describes one of the principles of holocracy:

“…is to make the implicit explicit… People are actually encouraged to bring stuff up…”

I had heard about holocracy not really taking the time to understand what it was. Hearing Jonathan’s talk about it made me envious of Medium employees. Of course it seems much easier to implement in smaller companies than big ones but I will definitely look more seriously into holocracy.

I particularly liked the concrete practices that Medium uses such as special language, skillful communication and physical proximity.

James Flaherty of New Ventures West & Fred Kofman author of Conscious Business talked about the role of Coaching and the Central work of our lives.

I really enjoyed their dialogue.

James explained what he thinks is the central work of our life:

Life is a gift to us that we should not hold on to but a gift to give.

James reminded us that we tend to forget that people we meet are unique beings; most of us have an issue with what makes us legitimate. We worry if we please our customer, our boss, our team, etc. As we believe we are legitimate by others, we tend to forget ourselves. But all of us are inherently legitimate, whoever we are, wherever we are. As a coach James considers everyone legitimate, to help people be themselves.

For Fred  the central work of our life is to be happy. How can we be really happy vs unreally happy, i.e. happy about unreal things? Reality is what we make friend with vs what we search for. When searching for something we become very narrow and our sense of reality distorted.

What matters when we play a game is the values that we exhibit while playing, not the win or loss.

There was a funny exchange about American attitude in sports. James said that in America we tend to think that:

When we play a game, if we’re good and true to ourselves we are going to win… If I don’t win then we think that there’s something wrong with us…

Fred said that this illusion that if we do everything well we’re going to be rewarded and win is a disaster. Because then if we lose we feel there is something wrong with the universe or that we did something wrong.

Then there is our social disaster: we tend to protect one another from the truth. We prefer to be untruthfully happy than truthfully unhappy and we do that to others too… Especially in corporations. Or we take the opposite attitude where we jump at the throat of people saying to people:

You have a problem.

I liked the discussion about empowerment. Who is powerful enough to say “I empower you to do this or that.”? The right approach is to make people feel empowered by allowing them to be themselves, fully.

The problem is not selfishness it’s idiocy: for example companies focusing on making money or people focusing on being happy.

If what matters is love, relationships, etc. everyone, every company should go for it and get out if this ego thing…

Peter Deng from Instagram talked about Applied Mindfulness

After the haha moment that makes us decide to bring mindfulness to our life, how do we find ways to practice? How to stay present during hectic days?

Peter shared a few practices that help him.

The first one is Mindful planning. Before work, do calendar scan and ask the following for each task: what is the context, what are the goals, what should I prepare? For the day: am I missing anything?

How do we surround myself with like minded people? We can’t change people. Language creates shared space. The second practice is Intentional language. We ought to identify opportunities to be more thoughtful, with pauses, questions about our intention, usage of the right words and actual speeches.

Peter shared a funny story of a meeting room that used to be named “umadbro”. He changed its name to “this moment”. That made funny reference to presence, e.g. “Meet me in this moment” or “I am here in this moment”.

The third practice is compassion. How may we practice more compassion every day? How may we open our heart to everyone? Peter talked about Brandon who created the Humans of New York page on Facebook. After losing his job, Brandon ended up starting photography. He visited multiple cities and started to take pictures of people and write their stories. He then shared them on Facebook. He quickly realized the power of real stories of others. People “liked” his postings, by tens, hundreds, thousands and soon millions. The Humans of New York page has now more than 3 millions likes. This illustrates the power of connection!

I visited the Humans of NY page after Peter’s talk and it is truly powerful. It made me start to look at people around me differently and wonder what is their story.

Everyone has a story.

Ariana Huffington talked about The third metric: Redefining Success beyond Money and Power.

She started her talk saying that:

2013 was the year CEOs came out not as gays but meditators: Marc Benioff, CEO of Aetna, etc.

Many people, even famous billionaires, have been falling off the stool and have realized that success is more than making money and being powerful.

There is indeed a 3rd metric beyond money and power. That metric has 4 pillars: well being, wisdom, wonder, giving.

She shared her concern that Corporate America is not working for women, men, polar bears… Therefore we have to change. Our business world is not sustainable.

She asked the following question:

What is it that we spend so much time on our resume vs our eulogy?

Indeed have we ever seen eulogies that praise people’s work, money, power? Instead they are all about love, relationships, generosity, etc.

Science tells us that life is shaped from the inside out. It changes everything if we start to apply it. The place inside ourselves is a place of grace, gratitude, compassion and love. She suggested that :

We live life as if everything is rigged in our favor.

She shared her belief that mindfulness, meditation and sleep transform our life for the better. The wake up call before anyone starts to think about turning inside is in general not a line of poetry. She shared her own collapse of exhaustion in 2007 and her daughter’s drug story in 2012. The beginning of her journey started with her collapse. It took her a while to realize that despite money and power her life was not successful. Now she knows that she was missing her life, despite money and power.

What makes it hard is that the world tells us everyday that we need to climb, earn more, etc. We are pushed to forget ourselves and pause. Bu the good news is that the impulse is within ourselves. We have to find it and let it come out and say “No, this is what is important for us: sleep, love, anything that is truly important for us, inside”.

If we live our life for money we’ll never have enough, if we live our life for power we’ll never have enough time.

The secret of our life is inside.

She concluded her talk with the following request:

Take the teaching to the world! Upward, outward and -more importantly- inward!

Alanis Morrissette and Dan Siegel discussed about Conscious communication in the Digital age.

Monologue to monologue is the American way of communication. What does conscious communication mean? Neural integration is at the root of consciousness. Integration is at the basis of wisdom, health, kindness, compassion. Therefore conscious communication requires parties that are “well integrated”.

With digital technology, we can live a life far from ourselves and far from anyone else. This is the danger.

Dan said that if the internet could be the catalyst of integration, it would be fantastic. He asked all of us to think about:

How might the internet support a better integration? (Challenge #1)

How might technology help us to spread empathic joy around the world? (Challenge #2)

We have to stop believing that:

The self stops at the boundary of our skin. The self is both a me and a we. Once integrated it becomes a mwe.

Tony Hsieh talked about Zappos and Downtown Project

Hearing Tony Hsieh speak was my top motivation for attending the event. I deeply admire what he did at Zappos. His story of how he became who he is is truly inspiring. He seems to be this continuous learner, trying, analyzing, learning, trying, etc.

After having read his book “Delivering Happiness”, which I highly recommend, I took notes about the Downtown Project and the following Q&A session.

Downtown is about Community; it is about reframing “Community” for a better world. He starts with transforming downtown Las Vegas.

His objectives with Downtown Las Vegas are:

  • integrate live, work and play;
  • create the most community focused large city in the world;
  • make LV downtown the co learning and co working capital of the world.

The four key principles are to increase collisions, co-learning, connectedness, density.

He measures progress and success with monitoring two unusual measures: ROC (Return On Collision)… And ROL (Return On Luck).

Check his Celebration of Life in October with the Life is Beautiful Festival!

His biggest learning last 15 years:

Nothing turns out the way you think.

Two books he recommends:

His biggest edge:


How he nurtures the company culture at Zappos:

With the power of awe and storytelling. For example they brought a real horse in the office for Chinese NY.

Holocracy – self organizing system – will be rolled out at Zappos this year with all 1500 employees.

How he describes Holocracy:

In Holocracy the 3 org charts are the same. The 3 being: official, actual, wannabe.

His motivation:

To solve the puzzle of making customers happy, employees, supplier, community, etc. Altogether.

He confessed that it is very hard to protect a good company culture. Every employee needs to talk to it. Zappos recruits and fires employees for the culture.

He simply amazed me and I can only finish this blog with notes from his talk.

I hope you enjoyed the reading. This is not a comprehensive report of the conference, but rather notes and thoughts about the sessions that I attended. I missed many sessions, including all those on the 3rd day of the conference – I decided to run in San Francisco instead.

Per Ariana’s request this blog is my first attempt at bringing the teaching outward. I hope to see you next year!

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Mindfulness at work

About a year ago (already!), while I was leading SAP’s Developer Relations, I gave, at SAP’s annual developer kick-off event, a short talk about happiness at work. Then I wanted to share a few practices that made my experience at work more enjoyable, hoping that such practices would also work for others.

Then months passed… and for various reasons I slowly stopped enjoying my job. I felt that too many forces were pushing me in directions that I did not want to take. I lost interest in fighting against the current. I started to dream of a different job, one that would be fun and give me more freedom to do great things the right way.

Two months ago my dream came true: I signed up for a new job. Interestingly it brought me back last year, to my short talk about happiness. My new job consists of creating favorable conditions for the happiness of developers at SAP. The scary part is that I have no formal psychology education. Well… after thought, with more than 15 years in management I may have enough psychology practice! 

Happiness? Let’s rewind to my talk last year and use Mihali Csikszentmihaliy’s definition of happiness:

Happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.

While there does not seem to be consensus about how happiness ought to be measured, we can find more and more examples of countries and businesses that explored the question and came up with possible answers. In 2012 Bhutan published a well regarded guide that explains how they measure and monitor the country’s Gross National Happiness index. The same year Tony Hsieh, CEO at Zappos, launched a survey to measure happiness at work.

My team and I were asked on our job because the SAP people survey results showed a significant drop in employee engagement, especially with developers. Unfortunately the same survey failed to give my team much else than the symptom of issues that had yet to be discovered. We could not really do much without finding out more about the root causes of the symptom surfaced by the survey. We embarked in a qualitative happiness research to collect insights about issues that developers have. For that we held a series of informal 1:1 conversations with developers, across the globe, to hear their thoughts about being and working as a developer at SAP. We summarized our research as a list of 8 overarching sentiments, some positive, others negative. How good is that? Some might argue that our research might not be representative of all developers. They are right but we had to start somewhere and I did not want to wait for months before we started to make a bigger difference than just collecting information. The research was good enough to start discussions with executive management, get their feedback, get their ideas, and more importantly drive a few initiative that address voiced issues that may be the biggest detractors of happiness.

So now my team and I are working in dual mode: continuous data collection/analysis/reporting while exploring/experimenting with solutions based on most current reports.

Here are a few examples of experiments that we are conducting:

– the SAP Culture Book, inspired by the Zappos Family Culture Book 

– d-shop, SAP developers’ makers space, inspired by the TechShop

– a Reuse Culture with an internal API Marketplace and internal Open Source (aka Innersource)

– an Internal Innovation Management Platform to support incremental product innovation as well potentially bigger or disruptive innovation

But such list would not be complete with something else… If you go back to Mihali Csikszentmihaliy’s definition of happiness, the control of our inner experience has an impact on the quality of our lives, therefore our happiness. Therefore an important element of our work should also include introducing mindfulness training at SAP.

A few weeks ago, by chance I met with a colleague who had run 2 pilots of Search Inside Yourself trainings for employees of SAP Labs in Palo Alto. Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) is a nonprofit public benefit corporation founded in 2012 by Chade Meng-Tan who had introduced a Search Inside Yourself curriculum at Google. You can find more information about SIYLI there

The value of mindfulness training were not new to me. In 2010 I did a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat that changed my life. After the retreat and with continuous practice I felt that I had become a better person, more able to observe my sensations and to not react to them. I thought I had become more self aware and reflective about everything. I felt good. When I read the Search Inside Yourself book, I got all excited to see that someone, e.g. Meng, had managed to successfully spread Mindfulness training and practice to the workplace. I thought that if SIYLI could help me to do the same at SAP, it could be huge.

Two weeks ago I asked my team to be guinea pigs for SAP developers: I signed them up for a 2 day Search Inside Yourself training by SIYLI. I thought that before we pushed to spread Mindfulness training within SAP, we had to test its benefits for ourselves. Result: most got convinced by the power and value of Mindfulness. Our training was followed by a 4 day workshop where we collaboratively planned 2014. I saw a positive difference in how we interacted and worked together. We will now work with SIYLI to optimize the format of the training for SAP’s engineering culture.

As I attend the Wisdom 2.0 week and conference this week, I am super excited to learn what others have successfully brought to their personal life and workplace.

On monday I very much enjoyed listening to Jeff Weiner about compassionate management. I wrote down those two quotes that i particularly liked: “Wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness; compassion without wisdom is folly”; “compassion is not conditional”.

Today I spent two fantastic hours at Facebook listening at how they are using the latest research from social interaction and positive psychology to improve their platform and the communities they support.

I find this movement towards goodness, whether we call it Wisdom, Mindfulness, Mindsight, Happiness, etc. so exciting and promising! Ignoring it is the biggest mistake a company could make.

Come join the movement!







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SAP Developer Advisory Board: Launched!

SAP launched its Developer Advisory Board (DAB) on September 12th 2013 in Palo Alto. The DAB was established to provide feedback and recommendations about SAP’s Developer Programs.

The DAB is currently composed of the following members: James Gosling, Jeff Hadfield, Dan Martin, David McLaughlin, John Musser, Tim O’Reilly and Douglas Solomon. Check here for more information about the DAB members.

So… on September 12th a few colleagues joined me for the day to kick-off discussions and work with the DAB: Anand Eswaran, Barbara Dorf, Bernd-Uwe Pagel, Bjoern Goerke, Ingrid Van den Hoogen, Irfan Khan, Richard Pledereder, Shel Finkelstein, Vijay Vijayasankar and Inga Bereza (who made this day happen).

Ingrid, who suggested to me a few months ago to setup such Developer Advisory Board, opened the day by welcoming everyone. Well… almost, because sadly, James Gosling could not join in person this time.

Bjoern had the hard job of giving an overview of SAP and our technologies in 30mns. No slides, just talk! Impressive summary. Irfan followed him with an overview of SAP HANA. Still no slides but Irfan used a whiteboard! One comment from the DAB members is that we “don’t seem to know how to explain SAP HANA”. We need to learn to explain SAP and our technologies in a simpler, clearer and more concise way. “Developers want to get it in 5mins max; they want to build real stuff in less than an hour”.

After the overviews, we went on to work on the first challenge. We split the room into 2 teams that were asked to discuss and report about exciting use cases of our technologies for developers. The team I joined spent a long time discussing about the fact that SAP should stop pushing technologies to developers. “You should rather spend time showing to them and helping them to understand how you can help them to solve their problem”. “For them to understand you need real stories by developers for developers”. “You need stories that will make them dream”. “With all your customers data, developers could do so much! You need to find ways to make this data available to developers…” The other team talked about the importance of nurturing the A developers while catering for the C developers. “You have to lower the barriers to entry”. “Why not make HANA free for developers?” “What improvements can you or HANA bring to the top 20 mobile apps?”

Of course there were plenty of other interesting questions and points!

We then all broke for lunch.

I started the afternoon with a brief overview (with slides) about SAP activities for developers so far. I also shared what we learned during recent developer events that we organized or sponsored, one of them being that we have a reputation and perception problem with net new developers. “We are a no-brand for developers”. One recommendation was that “you should focus most of your efforts and energy on the existing SAP developer ecosystem until you have a compelling and true value proposition for the others”.

Barbara took the stage after me to present the findings of an ongoing project to re-define SAP’s value proposition and messaging to developers. She wanted to get the DAB reaction about the findings and have them help us to choose between three potential directions for building an exciting value proposition for developers. Here are a couple of comments/questions that we received: “Exciting developers requires more than a good value proposition and some marketing. It requires proving that you have already created value for a developer”. “How can you prove to us that you can walk the talk for any of the three directions?”

After my and Barbara’s talks we jumped into a bigger discussion about the Value Proposition directions and about the next steps we should take to activate and deliver on them. There was general consensus that the direction should be around the value of our business platform and customer ecosystem to enable developers to change the world. Not that easy to prove but quite exciting, I think. We had a short discussion about Open Source vs. Open. “Open Source is an artifact from the past”. “The way is development in the Cloud, using open and well documented APIs”. “You want to make sure you use open formats and open interfaces”.

Feedback, questions, ideas flew all day. I can’t say that all were surprising but I appreciated all and I certainly value all. We or I came out of the day with homework, a lot, not easy but quite interesting and exciting. We now need to prioritize and re-plan.

Whether you’re a developer or not you’ll notice shortly!


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Enterprise focused Startup Weekend – Take #1 at SAP Labs Palo Alto

My first encounter with Startup Weekend leaders was in the fall of 2010 when SAP and Startup Weekend jointly organized SAP TechEd  2010 Innovation Weekend. Innovation Weekend was a customized version of a Startup Weekend event, e.g. Innovation Weekend events were 1.5 days (instead of 2.5) and were targeting developers from SAP Ecosystem (rather than entrepreneurs). Innovation Weekend has now evolved into InnoJam where each event combines a Design Thinking workshop where teams design solutions to a real challenge and a hackathon where the same teams hack code to realize their designed solutions. SAP organizes InnoJam events around selected technology conferences that SAP organizes or sponsors. Read more and sign-up here!

Since 2010 our collaboration with Startup Weekend was reduced to a minimum: a few colleagues attended Startup Weekend events as participants mostly. We talked a few times in 2011 and 2012 about trying to do something together, in the Bay Area or at other places, but somehow I did not feel that we were ready to go big after the Startup Weekend crowd: we had to work on our brand, messaging and technology.

And then earlier this year another window opened when Gigi met with Ludo at an SAP Startup Focus event in Palo Alto…

I guess it was “just the right time”. Developer Entrepreneurs, whom we call “Deventrepreneurs”, have now become one of SAP’s strategic target developer segments. We have a lot to offer to those entreneurship-minded developers who are thinking about, or actively involved, in the creation of a new business with a strong technical component, typically around cloud-based enterprise applications. We have technologies to build on and a large ecosystem to sell to or partner with. We want to make this known to them and the rest of the world. In parallel Ludo was much interested in creating, with SAP, an Enterprise focused Startup Weekend series because there was high demand by entrepreneurs in the Startup Weekend community. Together we figured that it could only be win-win-win, win for Startup-Weekend, win for Entrepreneurs and win for SAP.

After a few weeks of hesitation about timing and possible event locations we finally agreed to kick-off the Enterprise Focused Startup Weekend series with a first event on June 7-9 on our Palo Alto campus. SAP would be platinum sponsor of the event and besides hosting the event and opening it with an exciting keynote speaker, we would also provide technologies that participants could choose from. 

Our objective is to leverage Startup Weekend’s reach to make ourselves, SAP, known in the global community of entrepreneurs as the company that can and will open the doors of the enterprise world to them.

Objective accomplished? Not yet but we made a first step in the right direction. Thx to Ludo, the great MC Lloyed and my team for having us make this step!

Check 2mns summary of Take #1 at Silicon Valley Startup Weekend Enterprise Edition – SAP Labs Palo Alto – Summary video and find familiar or new faces in this picture:Image

Next step: take it with us at Enterprise focused Startup Weekend – Take #2 in Stuttgart in November 2013!

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Kiss Me Dirty San Jose 2013 run – SAP women were there!

On April 14 I ran my first ever mud run. Why? Because… why not? Actually my dear colleague Inga, who is always ready for fun, registered an SAP team for the Kiss Me Dirty San Jose run and made it easy for me to try. As you can guess from the name, the race is for girls only (hey! didn’t we spot a few men too?).


That’s us: Sophie, Anne, Inga, Stephanie

Six of us from SAP signed up: Inga, Nadine, Sarah, Sophie, Stephanie and me. The day off, Nadine was ill and could not join, and we did not find Sarah on the course. So 4 of us made the SAP team.


Celebrating being clean…

I had never run a mud run before so I was not sure about what was awaiting us. I had run in the mud a few times during or after rain but never in “designed” mud. I don’t think my team mates knew either but discovering together was kind of fun. The event was crowded. Maybe 1000 girls?

When the 4 of us arrived -already together- at Santa Clara Fairgrounds, at around 9am, we picked our bibs, checked our dry clothes and went to inspect the course. Inga had prepared everything: team t-shirts, garbage bags, dry towels. Sophie, Stephanie and I were fully assisted. Our team got assigned to start in the 9th wave of the race at 10:50am. We cheated and joined the 3rd wave. Why wait to get dirty?


1st muddy moment – obstacle #1

The first hundred yards were quite dry. We ran on hay and dirt…

Then we got into the first mud puddle. Of course it is not very welcoming. Not the time to have cold feet. It just took us 10 seconds to get mud from toe to calf. We recolored our hair too…

Then we ran again. Our shoes were quite heavy, I would guess about 2 pounds each. At least we did not lose them like a few women did …


Inga mastering obstacle #2

The second obstacle was mostly an exercise of style compared to the first one. We had to slalom between tires. Inga did it quite elegantly.


Sophie following Stephanie and bathing her pants in the sticky mud at obstacle #3


The third one was the most disgusting: sticky mud in your feet and on your butt. And there were tons of women stuck in there… We all made it through with fun.


Actually Sophie never stopped smiling for the entire race. Did you really enjoy it Sophie 😉 ?



One the web, the muddy one

The fourth obstacle was our favorite: climbing and descending a muddy web. I was just afraid that the structure would not support all of us or maybe that one girl would fall on another.

Aren’t we the most elegant of the lot? Not very clean but…


Then we were so dirty that no mud could scare us. We survived the next obstacles, playing the equilibrists on the fifth, getting more wet on the sixth – and pausing for memories, jumping hurdles on the seventh, climbing mud walls on the eighth, swimming (not us!) on the ninth.

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And finally, the finish line awaited us with foamy soap. So nice!!!!

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We appreciated our bottle of hint water, our banana, our little dry towel and of course the washing area.

We had loads of fun. Thank you Inga for organizing, Sophie and Stephanie for smiling all along!

Practice at one Kiss Me Dirty race next to you and join us next year!

One day, can we do one in real mud, and not in designed mud?


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A day in a life: catching, making, cutting and gluing

In one of my previous blogs I talked about how enjoyable it is to build stuff.  Today with -most of- my team, we had an enjoyable experience building.

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View of a TechShop floor

Indeed we spent the day at TechShop in San Francisco, catching, making, cutting and gluing. There were several purposes for this trip: build stuff that we would bring back to our work area to personalize our workspace, have fun together in an unusual way, and get new insights for what we typically do at work, which is anything to attract developers on SAP technologies…

Inga and Matt did a fantastic job (thank you!) with organizing our day around building 3D sculptures of characters. In the end the characters were “ourselves”. How much more personalized can this be?

Catching and making

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Laura in 123 Make (model under work)

After a “french” style breakfast -without the cigarettes- we learned how to use Autodesk’s 123Catch app on our iPhone and made 3D models of each other’s head. Of course depending on our exposure to light, our hair, the steadiness of the photographer, each 3D model came out better or worse. Some of us ended up with scars on our faces, bumps on our heads, crazy hair… but all of us used our 3D model to make a derived 3D model with stacked cardboards. For that we used Autodesk’s 123Make app. I was surprised to see how some heads looked better using one slicing direction while others looked so much better using another direction. I picked horizontal slicing; Laura and Lars picked vertical slicing, Ingo and Rocky picked oblique slicing.

Cutting and gluing

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DevEx team at work with 123Catch or 123Make

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Anne in 123Make before slicing and Karin in 123Make before filing – Yoda watching us…

Most of us decided that our sliced 3D models looked good enough to deserve printing. And off we went to cut our head slices out of cardboard with laser cutting machines. Here we got a few issues. Some machines were not cutting as well as others, some machines were busy cutting pieces of Type A Machines’ 3D printers, and no machine could be configured to cut as we configured in 123Make…

Thankfully the TechShop experts found a way to cut the cardboard slices. Unfortunately it killed the proportions of our future sculptures…

Cut happened (no fire!) and all of us got our numbered cardboard slices. Then… last phase: glueing the slices together, in the right position and order. My head was made of 57 slices that I glued together from bottom to top. Actually the sculpture was more than just my head: it includes my shoulders and neck.

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Anne in sliced cardboard

And here we are: a thiner than normal 3D sculpture of my bust in slices of cardboard.

Most of us got a similar sculpture that will decorate PAL07 71.104 starting April 15th 2013. Come and visit!

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The dog saw… what?

While running yesterday night I listened to Malcom Gladwell’s book “What the dog saw”. I love listening to audiobooks when I am running. Of course the fact that Malcolm Gladwell is an amazing writer and reader makes the experience more enjoyable…

Despite the fact that several psychologists or scientists have criticized Malcolm Gladwell for his empirical work and what they have called simplistic generalizations and conclusions, I like his books because they raise intriguing questions about our beliefs. He makes me think and question much of what I was told and taught.

I wanted to share with you a couple of quotes that struck me during my run yesterday. As I was running I could not take notes, therefore I am sharing the quotes from memory. So @Malcolm: if some day you happen this blog, please accept my apologies if I misquoted you.

The first one is:

Talent does not make an organization succeed but the other way around.

Isn’t it amazing? Don’t we all chase talent when interviewing employees? Haven’t we all believed even once only that smart people are the solution to our problems? To any problem? If they are smart wouldn’t they find a way to do anything, everything? Haven’t we seen counter examples? Throughout the years, my experience has shown me many counter examples: smart people failing over and over and then quitting. A few years ago I was in-between jobs: my boss knew that I would not stay in my job and I did not have a new boss yet. No-one was paying attention to me. I was still in transition in the same company but somehow disconnected from the system and the “organization”. During that time I decided to work on what I really wanted to do, things that I deeply believed in. I got shocked by how much I could do because I was disconnected. I suddenly realized how much the “organization” had prevented me from being effective and efficient. I realized how much others were struggling like I had been. I became grateful for having had the opportunity to get out of the system and see how much damage a broken organization can do to whatever talent. I had decided that in order to nurture or even create talent I would always strive for creating a supporting organization.

Malcolm Gladwell gives the example of Southwest Airlines, which does not hire talent but grows talent by providing an organization that makes them work hard, efficiently and proudly. He also talks about Enron which, despite the fact that they hired tens of the best MBA students every year, got killed by its culture.

Only if you create the right organization, your people and company will succeed.

The second quote relates to the first:

If you feel the need to ask all your employees to think out of the box, you better fix the box.

Who has not been asked to think out of the box? Is it a good thing? Yes, right? I would even claim that it is necessary that all of us practice out of the box thinking. Some people are better than others but the good news is that all of us can get better at it. One practice that I have been using is that I occasionally give myself out of the box thinking challenges where I force myself to question all assumptions, principles, anything that I may take for granted.

Now Malcolm Gladwell says that if out of the box thinking is not a remedy to bad organizations. Out of the box thinking might help one or two to avoid the organization and its processes but unless the “box” is fixed, nothing is permanently fixed.

I hope that next time you ask or are asked to think out of the box you’ll question the box… I will.

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Annual performance planning in question.

Each year it’s the same thing: I, like many managers, fill, review and approve performance plans for my employees. And I, like always, wonder how valuable this ritual really is.

In our industry, IT, where constant change and fast pace innovation are necessary conditions for success, how would anyone want to even thinks about getting annual objectives? I don’t remember one year where all my objectives or those of my employees were still valid at the end of the year. When reading this you might think “well… she needs to do a better job at planning!”. In the contrary, isn’t it a good thing that I evolve my employees’ objectives? Isn’t it sane and reassuring that I am adapting to a changing environment by questioning and changing my team’s priorities? Of course some might still think that if my strategy and plan were good I would not need to deviate from them… But who can claim that their plan lasts a year? Our world is more complex than ever and we have to make predictions and guesses all the time, some or most of them wrong. Therefore we constantly adapt. Many say that the world belongs to those who adapt to changes. Because our world is indeed a world of change.

If my success relies on my team’s ability and mine to adapt to change, why don’t HR tools support such abilities? In such circumstance how can I find the motivation to use tools that I know won’t help me to do my job right?

Does rigid annual planning reign because companies don’t trust managers to measure their employees fairly when no annual “contract” on performance is signed? If true, wouldn’t it be sad? I know that some companies have stopped doing annual performance plans. In those companies, managers and employees have replaced annual performance planning with regular reviews of team’s objectives and employees roles to make sure that all remain actual. Are employees of those companies worse off? Are those companies worse off?

I don’t want to suggest that any type of planning is bad. Indeed planning really helps any of us to imagine possible scenarios and get prepared for any of them. To be most valuable planning needs to be continuous rather than episodic, e.g. from January to March every year.

Neither do I want to suggest that we need to sign monthly performance contracts with our employees.

Who does it well and right?

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Build #1

I announced it on thursday: yesterday was phase #1 of “we wanna be builders”, ie the start of Build #1 where my team will build a 3D printer… from an Ultimaker kit.

3pm PST: Ready? Go!!!

First thing: the team opens the box to find hundreds of pieces, big or small.


Then everyone tries to figure out where to start and where the various pieces are.




The thing starts to look more like one thing… Not yet a printer but we can start to imagine what it may look like…


Even though I show you a sequence of pictures, parallel work is going on. Below the result of hard work from the smaller hands of Rocky, Gigi, Lars and me.


Hard work needs serious drinks… Note the SAP bottle opener!


Kai-Christoph is really passionate!


Isn’t it beautiful? Victory is around the corner… but pride is already there…


A printer with a view… Now we are tackling Guide 4 of 7!


6:30pm and Build#1 is not over. Stay tuned for the second round next week!

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We wanna be builders…

Remember when you built your first people, animals, monsters or cars with play-dough? Wasn’t it exciting to build your own things with play-dough, legos or blocks?

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Similarly isn’t it exciting to create software and see it running? Depending on the software it might not feel as artistic as a beautiful winner in play-dough or a gigantic castle in lego, but the experience of putting the last touch on something you built is often quite enjoyable…

Unfortunately my job and that of many in my team does not give us much chance to build stuff that we can look at, use as decoration, deeply admire and be proud of. In our era of constant interruption with emails, phone calls, time for creative activities tends to be minimal or nonexistent. And many of us crave for painting, cooking, mending, etc.

This is the reason why my team came up with the brilliant idea to jointly make space for building of stuff. We just bought a 3D printer kit from Ultimaker. We will start to assemble the kit tomorrow (build #1). Once the 3D printer is up and running we will do a contest for the best 3D print (build #2). The winner will be an InnoJam winner prize. As we get more proficient with using a 3D printer we’ll deserve to use more tools… Therefore we will spend a day at TechShop where we will build objects for personalizing our space in PAL07 (build #3).

Story and pictures of build #1 tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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