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So, what are you a fan of? EVERYONE is a fan of something! It could be a film, a book, a band or singer, a sport, a restaurant or a place. But what is it that makes us fans and why does being a fan produce such incredibly strong emotions in us? I wonder if that enthusiasm could be channelled into the workplace.
Turning workplaces into fanbases has made me fan obsessive, so when I saw the programme, ‘Tom Felton meets the Superfans’; I downloaded it, even though I had no idea who Tom Felton was.
Of course I now know he was Harry Potter’s adversary, Draco Malfoy. He seems like a nice guy and he has a Superfan called Tina, that’s why he wanted to get in the minds of fans and see what drives them. Fascinating watching, if you haven’t seen it, you can here
In my business I lift and expose the psychological traits of fans in the workplace because it makes work and generally (because we spend a third of our time at work) life, better. Everyone (well almost) is a fan of something. We can recall from our memories, lovely stories of books, films, people, moments, sports, buildings, places, etc. of when we realised that we had created a relationship with that thing that made it go beyond a single moment in time. Without exception, when you get someone to do that their mood lifts instantly and they automatically smile.
Tom gets that across really well in this programme. He also gets across just what big business fans have become and why. The simple pleasures of making a connection, feeling closer, attachment, wanting to be part of something that gives you meaning, being part of a community, getting personal recognition all run through the program. I was hooked because those same things run through why we believe turning workplaces into fanbases is critical to the employer – employee relationship.
Tom is shown making a film in Spain, where the Producer (Pete Shilaimon) is frustrated that filming needs to stop while Tom has some photos taken with fans, but is well aware that without them, there would be no film at all, “Fans are what make or break a movie, they are going to be loyal and supportive no matter what, without fans we don’t have movies.” (he is American).
Just substitute the word movie for business and fans for employees and you’ll understand why we are on this journey.
Then there is Steve, the world’s biggest Harry Potter fan. Steve seems obsessive but he doesn’t want to be Harry Potter, he just identifies positively with the story because of things that happened to him when he was younger. Steve was bullied, different, didn’t fit in, in his own words:
"I really identified with who Harry was: the skinny kid that got bullied and became the superhero."
Some fans want to share really personal things with you too.
He considers himself to be a fanatic, nothing affects his life negatively, he doesn’t dress as Harry Potter daily, he just really wanted to go to Hogwarts (never going to happen) so he brought the place to him and it’s made him really happy.
We can all identify with something that stimulates those positive memories in us, though maybe not all as obsessively. Loving that song, that film, that book so much it caused you to do this kind of thing (maybe just not on that scale).
Tom shows repeatedly, how humbling it can be to see how much a brief encounter can mean to someone. I have seen that many times in the workplace when the “boss” walks the floor or comes to see something you have done. Those emotions and demands are very human and we see them at work more than we realise.
Some fans want to share really personal things with you too. One fan tells Tom how Harry Potter helped her recover from depression, “The actors were so inspiring – I wanted to thank him for dedicating his whole self to the character.” says Jade. “Depression has such a stigma attached to it, people telling you to snap out of it.” In the Harry Potter story Jade saw a physical form of her depression she could relate to and it helped her want to get help.
It’s amazing to think that something like Harry Potter could lift someone out of a dark place like that. We spend a third of our waking hours at work, how amazing would it be if we could have these same connections in the workplace, the same support, the same recognition?
There are moments where JK Rowling talks about being recognised by Morrissey
Then there is Brian, autograph hunter extraordinaire, who has turned his hobby into his profession. Brian was prepared for every eventuality. Tom could feel his excitement building as he waited for his idol to appear. After 2 hours of waiting for his idol he gets completely ignored, but he isn’t daunted and goes on to track the next one down, Rupert Grint, the ginger one from Harry Potter. This time there is success and the effect on Brian is undeniable. In that instant it’s clear why Brian does this, it’s the thrill of the chase, the success, and (most importantly) the sense of recognition from Rupert.
“All these famous faces seem to know who he is, in some small way he has become part of their lives.”
Rupert got a kick out of it too. He loved being recognised. We all do in our own way.
There are moments where JK Rowling talks about being recognised by Morrissey (Mozza probably read it in French; Al’ecole des sourciers!) No matter where they turned, the fan experience was an excitement that was infectious.
I am excited about all this fan stuff because I want to take it all into the workplace; things that we used to take for granted – comradery, sense of belonging, a chance to make friends, real authentic communication and recognition. I don’t think that fandom should be the product of escapism; I want it to be part of every day for everybody.
The programme ends with a quite emotional meeting of Tom and his Superfan Tina. Tom wanted to know what Tina wanted out of this relationship. I felt the emotion from Tina when she explained that she never had a family and the Harry Potter characters became the pseudo family that she was watching grow up.
It’s Tom’s final comment and if you watch the programme you will agree, we could all use a little more Superfan in our lives.
How amazing would that be if it was at work?