Playfulness and Trust go Hand in Hand

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
– Arthur C. Clarke
Any sufficiently advanced work is indistinguishable from play.” – Seb Paquet

Having a bit of distance from the SAP Mentors, I realize how much of the strong connection and bond between us was created through an environment of trust and play. They go hand in hand.

Yarif Zur receiving his SAP Mentor shirt. Picture by Ali Samieivafa

Yarif Zur receiving his SAP Mentor shirt. Picture by Ali Samieivafa

Let me tell you a secret, promise not to share it, especially not to newly selected SAP Mentors.

Twice a year, just before the larger SAP events Sapphire and TechEd, new SAP Mentors are announced.

It is a big deal on the first evening of the large event; the new SAP Mentors get their welcome. It is part of the SAP Mentor reception.

Early on one year, we were getting ready for the reception, one of the SAP Mentors said to me: “what are we doing to welcome the new SAP Mentors, there should be an initiation rite?”   Now I hate hazing, but to sing a song in front of your new buddies should be OK.

Not thinking more about it, an hour later I let the new SAP Mentors come up and collect their shirt, and then I said, “before you can walk away, please sing us a song.”

I honestly had no idea how frightening it is for some people to have to sing in front of others. Several people said, “I can’t sing!”  Then they tryied to hurry back into the crowd. But the SAP Mentors insisted. After a bit of nudging, new Mentors might fall back to singing a lullaby that they sing to their kids or just Happy Birthday. Over the years we enjoyed quite a few lullabies in all kind of languages. That was very sweet.

The beauty was, that most of the other SAP Mentors in the room would join in the singing once they started, which was exactly the right signal for the new SAP Mentors: If I step up and do something, even or especially if out of my comfort zone, the SAP Mentors will be there to support me and help me up if I stumble. It is literally setting the tone: welcome to the family, you are safe here. The little playfulness created a shared experience and with that an environment of trust, that encouraged others to be playful too.

Sometimes you get a total surprise, I will never forget Clint Vosloo filling the room with his booming voice singing a native South African song. :-)

What was really great is that the SAP Mentors mostly kept this initiation rite a secret, and this is why I am asking you to do the same. The last thing we wanted is for new SAP Mentors to have a stomach ache in anticipation of the welcome reception.

Playfulness and trust go hand in hand. Without trusting our fellow human beings, we can’t be playful. By being playful you demonstrate your trust and invite others to trust you.

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