Tracey Follows: You don't need a cape and mask to have a superpower

campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 31 May 2012 08:00AM

What do you think the most wanted superpower is these days? Well, a cursory glance towards the internet will tell you it's body reformation, teleportation, shapeshifting, instant learning, an unbreakable spirit, fresh breath and bringing people back from the dead. It must say something about the expectations on us as individuals and the era in which we live that so many of them are about being flexible, adaptable and changeable - superpowers as coping mechanisms!

Tracey Follows, the executive planning director at VCCP

Tracey Follows, the executive planning director at VCCP

However, when I asked a group of 400 young women in the industry a fortnight ago to find their superpower, some said they didn't have one. Of course, each of them does have a special power, something that is not only unique but intrinsic to them, but perhaps they haven't found a way to access it (like finding a nearby phone box, changing into blue tights and popping some bright red underpants over the top). But why?

Because we are so focused on diversification that we have forgotten our core purpose - so eager to be a brand guru, a digital evangelist, a user-experience expert, an entrepreneur, a media-friendly puppet, or just worthy of a "like" or two, that we've forgotten what our core purpose, and therefore our real power, actually is. Whatever the thing we do that no-one else can do as well as we do it, we can call our "superpower".

Chade-Meng Tan, employee 107 at Google, has stepped into this vacuum and now runs classes as part of his programme "search inside yourself" that are so renowned that even Barack Obama met Meng when he visited the Plex recently. What's really interesting is that Meng describes what he does and what he is as "world peace maker", which means he helps others get to grips with a calm mind, serenity and their own clarity of purpose.

I (rather grandly) like to think my superpower is that of "in-betweenness" (or "metaxis", which is being in two places at once). In this case, in the future as well as in the present. And if this sounds like science fiction, you might be surprised to know it's actually Platonic (so part of the past). Much more interestingly, the superpowers of those young women at the event, after they really thought about it, turned out to be everything from "secret agent subterfuge" to "time-travel", "invisibility" and even "a talent for healing".

In a socially designed world in which we now prize likeability over effectiveness, perhaps we need to re-evaluate the importance of not only our own superpowers, but those of the brands we work for. For, in a world that is increasingly complex, inauthentically virtual and economically unstable, our world needs those who possess real superpowers to step forward, come to its rescue and, in so doing, put their superpowers to good use.

Tracey Follows, the executive planning director at VCCP

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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