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The difference between a great work and a magnum opus: Often, it’s teamwork

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“Per fer les coses bé cal: primer, l’amor a elles; segon, la técnica”

(“To do things right, first you need love, then technique.”) – Antoni Gaudi

I was lucky enough to attend a work event in Barcelona, where the theme was “connect with purpose.” But, what does that really mean? Throughout the conference, I heard from customers, partners, and colleagues about what they considered their own purpose to be as stakeholders for their businesses.

To my surprise, the most powerful example of the theme of connecting with purpose I encountered came after the event had concluded. It occured when I toured the Basilica de La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s world-famous, mind-bending ode to his Christian faith, writ large in stone.

What I experienced there was one of the most astounding pieces of architecture and artistic expression on earth, whether religious or secular in origin.

When purpose and vision meet

Witnessing La Sagrada Familia for the first time changed me, especially as I realized the incredible melding of form and function – aesthetics and practicality – inherent in both its design and execution. It is, hands-down, the most beautiful man-made thing I’ve ever seen – by a wide margin. And, it is big. Really big. The scale of the structure defies photography and description, which makes it all the more moving in person. This is not just another European cathedral, it is a reinvention and elevation of the form; the living evolution of architecture.

After spending several hours on the site itself, including a thrilling trip to the top of one of the towers above the “Passion” facade, I toured the museum under the basilica to learn more about this groundbreaking project. It was fascinating to learn how the Basilica was conceived and funded.

But, what really struck me was how, nearly a century after the great architect’s death, the project has managed to stay on track for so long, while remaining so true to Gaudi’s singular vision. With so many artists, craftspeople, builders, and executors continuously passing the torch of design and execution down through four generations, what intrigued me the most was how this became more than a story of a man and his vision, but the story of a city, a country, and its people.

Gaudi knew he wouldn’t survive to see his work completed, but far from being discouraged, he built into his project not only extensive guidelines and a visual framework for future contributors to reference, but a deep-seated collaborative spirit that continues to permeate and inspire new generations of artisans to drive the project to completion. And, to ensure the final result lives up to the genius of its progenitor.

Two weeks on after my visit, I find myself still reflecting on my day at La Sagrada Familia, and thinking about how witnessing and learning about this monumental effort might inform my own work ethic and philosophy. I’ve always believed in teamwork, and that a team, working together in harmony, can be much more than just the sum of its parts. For me, when I hear our executive leadership speak to helping our customers become “purpose-driven” businesses, it is this core belief in the inherent power of teamwork that first comes to mind.

I’m one of many new members on the team behind SAP C/4HANA and the Customer Experience suite after recent acquisitions, and still coalescing into cohesive whole. But, walking the show floor during CX LIVE in Barcelona, talking to colleagues I hadn’t yet worked with, or had only met for the first time after interacting online or over the phone, I could feel a collective vision forming around me.

The continual reiteration of words like “trust” and “purpose” in our core messaging are, to me, more than simply market differentiators. These themes reflect our hopes and dreams of what’s possible for what we are building; what our solutions can ultimately represent in a marketplace and society constantly striving to reach a higher form.

This is an exciting time to be in the field of technology, and to be on the vanguard of a new age of business. We are privileged to be laying the groundwork for the future of customer experience, and what kind of digital world our children will inherit from us. As we form our global team, and all the smaller teams that comprise it, I think remembering the example of Antoni Gaudi’s magnum opus, a project he literally gave his life to, can inspire us all.

To build truly groundbreaking solutions for the future, we must all dig deeper, reach higher, and trust in ourselves and our teammates to come together to do the best work of our lives. To create something with real meaning and purpose, we must find meaning and purpose in our work.

I feel that we are all at the beginning of a wonderful adventure and that, years from now, we’ll all have something to look back and feel immense pride in: our own magnum opus. Let it be a labor of love.

David Kerin
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October 24, 2018
David Kerin

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