Nilofer Merchant Talks Only-ness, Business and Social Era

Nilofer MerchantNilofer Merchant Concept of Only-ness is our guest on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, November 27th. She is an author, corporate director and speaker based in Silicon Valley, California. She has worked for major companies like Apple, and Autodesk, and startups in the early days of the Web (Golive/ later bought by Adobe), Logitech, Symantec, HP, Yahoo, VMWare, and many others have turned to her guidance to develop new product strategies, enter new markets, defend against competitors, and optimize revenues. Her book, 11 Rules, has been included in Fast Company’s Best Business Books of 2012 list.

*Please join us Friday, November 30th at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we discuss “Only-ness – Foundation of Entrepreneurship, Celebrating Each Human”. Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

Nilofer Merchant, Harvard Business Review Press author of 11 Rules For Creating Value in the #Social Era, coined the term, “only-ness” when she noted that each person has something unique to offer. It could be a skill, an insight, passion or some combination of these things.  It’s probably better to take a look at her definition:

“The foundational element of all entrepreneurship or success in the market begins with celebrating each human and, more specifically, something I’ve termed onlyness.

Onlyness is that thing that only one particular person can bring to a situation (emphasis added). It includes the skills, passions, and purpose of each one of us. Onlyness is fundamentally about honoring each person, first as we view ourselves, and second as we are valued. Each of us is standing in a spot that no one else occupies. That unique point of view is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and vision. Embracing onlyness means that, as contributors, we must embrace our history, not deny it.

This includes both our “dark” and our “light” sides. Because when we deny our history, vision, perspective, we are also denying a unique point of view, that which only we can bring to the situation.

Each onlyness is essential for solving new problems, as well as for finding new solutions to old problems…It’s not that everyone will, but that anyone can.”

The transition from the “old” ways to the Social Era

I’m reminded of an exercise I once suggested to a client. He was struggling with showing his team that everyone’s work was interconnected. To demonstrate the connectedness, the exercise simply was a ball of yarn at a staff meeting thrown to each person and, as each person held the yarn, a web would appear. If someone dropped the part of the yarn they were holding, there was a gap. To be truthful, my client thought I was a little crazy. But the essential point was that each person who worked for him had something special to offer that would facilitate his vision becoming reality.

In the old paradigm of business, Merchant describes how strategy was only known to a select few while the rest of the organization had to execute the plan. In the Social Era, we are operating in an environment that moves quickly, gets disrupted by any number of variables and conversations can happen in any direction. A customer can share ideas of how to make something work better as easily as the designer.

Rite Solutions, Inc in Rhode Island is a great example of how organizations can value “only-ness”. On their website, they describe their business paradigm as “an environment where all employees are free to express their ideas whatever their position and where innovation is the rule of the day.”

Celebrating the human

While it is often easy to talk about the positives and how good talent is valued, there can be a disconnect. Merchant encourages everyone to take a look at their history and the uniqueness we bring to every situation. She urges us to acknowledge both the dark and the light aspects of ourselves and how they inform and shape our unique contributions. As organizations seek how to succeed in the Social Era, adjusting to treasuring employees could create value that, in turn, makes relationships with customers more firm.

How do you identify someone’s (or your own) only-ness?

What are the biggest challenges to organizations trying to embrace only-ness?

How does acknowledging our dark side work positively in a business setting?

When would only-ness be a hindrance for an organization?

What can we do to encourage companies to use their employees’ unique qualities?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth and small business coach/trainer, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding in your own backyard or into another country, Ability Success Growth guides established small business owners to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.