Scholars Explore Strengths via Anti-Hero Workshop


Not everyone fits into a predefined box or category. In fact, more often than not we create our own box identified by our skills and interests. For most this will eventually become constant, but the “box” of a college student is perhaps the most unpredictable and inconsistent of any age group. In general, college students often change their minds, are interested in a variety of subjects, and are inspired to take risks. The Anti-Hero Workshop, developed by The Finance Innovation Lab in the UK, was a great way to tease out those skills in an unobtrusive way and to learn more about each other.


The Need

The USC Marshall Society and Business Lab (SBL) Scholars are a cohort of 12 undergraduate students at the University of Southern California. We are all student leaders interested in social enterprise, and essentially form a community within the larger community of the (SBL). Each student is paired with a mentor working in the social impact industry in Los Angeles. As many of us complete our last year at school, the goal of the exercise was to learn where we fit in the social impact movement at our university, and what that might mean for our career search.


The workshop took place in three stages:

  1. Students analyzed the “hero” cards created by The Finance Innovation Lab, and related the archetypes to people they know
  2. In pairs, participants told leadership stories to each other, and the listener teased out important details
  3. The pairs relayed their observations to each other, and helped create a title and key points for the personas


The Results

Students developed anti-hero cards such as the Optimistic Adapter and Driven Explorer, who love to be out of their comfort zones and seek new opportunities. On the other hand we had titles such as the Global Guider and Creative Bridge Builder, who were great at connecting people and ideas while looking at the bigger picture. Other personas included the Archaeologist, Communicator, Pragmatic Melianst and Creative Navigator.

With this enhanced understanding of the other members of the cohort we discussed who would be best to start a new club, lead a volunteer trip, and or rally students behind an issue on campus. But we also thought about what roles that were missing— the Ultimate Cheerleader, Controversy King, and simply followers came to mind. One student noted that the types of roles we created are generational, and the buzzwords that worked their way into the titles are what we strive for. “It’s no longer ‘out of the box’ to be innovator,” she said, “and everyone wants something of their own.”


Next Steps

We all felt that the Anti-Hero Workshop was very successful. Students noted that they were able to realize and feel more comfortable accepting their strengths when they came from someone else, rather than having to proclaim them independently. At the same time, it proved a great way to be introspective and think about the qualities that define us.

In working together in the future, the exercise will help us know what roles members gravitate towards and capitalize on that. Who to ask for advice about facilitation or who could help solve a big picture problem are no longer shots in the dark. Many participants planned to take the exercise to other organizations they lead, and even to discuss weaknesses associated with different personas to take it a step further.