I have the pleasure and privilege to teach in the MBA program at University Canada West in Vancouver and last Friday I was part of the Convocation Ceremony for the Class of 2018.
Ceremonies, like a wedding, a knighting or an academic convocation tend to be steeped in history and tradition. We come to expect a certain formality, which is why when a bride and groom dance down the aisle to a Motown hit, the video will go viral – it’s just not what we’re expecting!
So perhaps you can imagine our surprise last Friday when the President of University Canada West and its Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Arthur Coren, adorned in his formal academic regalia, made the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman et.al. the subject of his Presidential Address to the graduating class of 2018. True to his rigorous academic background, he demonstrated a remarkable body of knowledge on the subject and had clearly done his research, citing box office revenue figures, the business models used by the big studios to cash in and naming more superheroes than I’ve ever heard of – not that I’m an expert. We listened intently, quite certain that Dr. Coren was leading us to an important conclusion by way of these caped wonders; he didn’t disappoint.
He shared that the incredible success of these marvel comic movies clearly shows that now more than ever, we need superheroes. In contrast to the shocking and divisive events and policies we hear about on the news every day, box office results confirm that a great many of us crave a story (and a world) where good triumphs over evil, where superpowers are used to save the day, to overcome a crisis, and help innocent people be vindicated. Then, the great news: Dr. Coren informed the graduands that THEY and indeed all of us ARE superheroes! His meaning was sincere and profound. He urged us all to look within ourselves, to acknowledge our true strengths, our gifts and special talents (aka our superpowers); to truly appreciate them and put them to good use for the betterment of the universe, in big or small ways. He exhorted us, as the superheroes we are, to believe in our ability to accomplish our goals – even the biggest, most ambitious and audacious of them all!
I appreciated his message. Too often, our modesty can get the better of us and we may discount something we’re amazing at. Sometimes it takes someone else to point out our talents or maybe a personality assessment that can highlight skills and talents that lay hidden in your blind spot.
For me, his address was important for two reasons.
- Having the courage to take risks and do things differently. If we don’t innovate, we fall behind. If we don’t take risks and do things differently, then we can’t find new ways and new solutions.
- Disrupting the status quo and expectations.
He bravely turned convention on its ear by picking a topic that not many of us would have expected. While Dr. Coren’s topic may have seemed a bit unusual at first, his address actually embodied aspects of a corporate culture that are desired and sought after today.
For an organization to be successful it must stay ahead of its competition, constantly innovating and improving processes and product. Fostering an organizational culture focused on innovation means creating an environment where it’s safe to make mistakes, ie to fail! That’s right, celebrating failure! Seeing failure as an opportunity to learn, course-correct and grow exemplifies courageous and intelligent leadership.
So I thank Dr. Coren not only for reminding us to celebrate our gifts and strengths but also for showing us what it looks like to take a risk and nail it! I wholeheartedly agree that we are all superheroes – my communication and training work through Komaryk Communications focuses on just that: helping individuals recognize their superpowers and those of their teammates.
What will you do this week that’s a little bit different than usual? How can you take a risk in order to innovate – even in a small way? Baby steps count! Take some time to reflect on what your superpowers are. How are you going to don your cape and deploy your superpowers to make the world, or your company, or your home a better place?