We like to believe that one person can save the world, win a project, and deliver the lights out performance that will change everything. No culture believes in super heroes quite like America does, and that includes our marketing.
Just consider the strong man image of the Marlboro Man. Heck, even the Old Spice guy is a play off this dream of one super hero.
The post-mortem deification of Steve Jobs over the past 10 days can be considered in this light. We know more than one person created all of these Apple products, software, marketing, store and web materials.
When it comes to creative we see the same phenomena. David Ogilvy is considered a God amongst advertisers. Many people in his agency (while he was alive) adhered to his methodologies. They also exercised their own creative license in writing and designing legendary ads.
Online, we see the same thing with bloggers. We idealize them as great voices and sages. Yet, many don’t have public accomplishments. Or when they do, we fail to see the critical role players that help make them a success.
Really this super hero/pedestal concept applies to all aspects of our culture.
Consider last Friday’s Give to the Max Day training event, which by almost every single account was a smashing success. Some people have offered props to me as the general manager for Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, and organizer and point person on the training conference. The reality is much different, considering all of the critical players who executed almost perfectly:
- AARP’s Tammy Gordon and Beth Carpenter lent us their facility, including its fantastic live streaming and wifi capabilities. They also supported directly not he AARP Facebook page and the Create the Good Twitter handle.
- Razoo’s community manager Ifdy Perez did a fantastic job on Twitter, and also cultivating blogger attendance.
- Razoo’s Shai Chu handled all of the logistics for the event, and it came off seamlessly.
- The nonprofit attendees and their excitement to learn and participate was critical to making the day productive
- The speakers — including Beth Kanter, GiveMn.org‘s Dana Nelson, Razoo’s Justin Wredberg, NWF’s Danielle Brigida, Care2’s Clinton O’Brien, Atlas Corps’s Abby Flottemesch, and ACTion Alexandria’s Tracy Viselli — all did a bang up job.
- Two speakers — Katya Andresen and Jocelyn Harmon — came from Network for Good, which is the underlying backbone behind Causes and Crowdrise, two Razoo competitors. They came in a spirit of industry cooperation and in support of our mutual hometown’s nonprofit community. Special hat tip to Network for Good.
- Gary Vaynerchuk took time to provide a video to attending nonprofits
- The Razoo Foundation underwrote the whole thing. Give to the Max Day parters United Way of the National Capital Area and the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region promoted the event.
- Last May then interim Razoo CEO, now CTO Brian Fujito had the idea for Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, without which none of this would be occurring.
- Many Razoo executives and staffers touched this event, including Lesley Mansford, Alison Risso, Bo Lotinsky, Claire Moore, Matt Camp, Heather Pringle, Jacques Villareal, Bryce Melvin, and on and on.
- Beth Kanter deserves a second credit, simply for teaching me how important capacity development is to nonprofits, who can have all the tools in the world, and could not execute, simply for not having the resources, training and talent to succeed. This training event, in fact the whole design of Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, is infused with this knowledge.
You can see that many, many people came together to form the recipe of success for Friday’s training event (please excuse any forgotten mentions). That’s the truth behind most successes. One person rarely is the sole generator of great efforts.
What About Those Super Powers?
My favorite super hero is Batman. He is always able to succeed with determination and skills in the face of his own tragic flaws. He does so with the help of friends, and no true super powers. Sheer moxy (or craziness), help from others, technology and training power Batman to success.
We all wish we had super powers. We wish we could change the world by flying through the air and laser eye vision or the like. That’s why we admire the super acts of individuals, placing them on pedestals.
All of us excel in certain areas. While all humans are equal in rights and random chance, we are not all equal in skills. Some of us are very talented in areas. However, invariably these skills are certainly offset by character flaws.
This is not to say that the strengths aren’t noteworthy. They are. Albert Einstein was brilliantly thoughtful and analytical. It doesn’t mean you’d want to hang out with him at a baseball game. Such are weaknesses. Understanding one’s strengths AND weaknesses, and how others round out a total effort is the art of management.
All stars have weaknesses. And even if they claim not to, one person eventually hits a limit to scaling. That’s why we need others: To counter weaknesses and collectively achieve what one person alone cannot.
The Myth Lives On
“In life, there are teams called Smith, and teams called ‘Grabowski’….We’re Grabowskis!” Mike Ditka
Great quote for a team with no ultimate star, the 1985 Chicago Bears. Yet, we don’t love Grabowskis. We love super men (and women), icons who can supposedly change the world.
The hope that we, too, could be super one day touches an inner desire to be special. That’s why pedestals are built, and marketing images contrived. Because deep down inside we want to believe that we can conquer all.
So we celebrate those that appear to do so, in all aspects of our culture.
Yet, in reality, we know that it was many, it was the whole group that did it together. Even the stars need their Grabowskis to succeed. Just don’t shout it out too loud.
What do you think of the American super hero myth?