“The Power of Onlyness” – Unique book title, next generation thinking

Without wanting to disclose too much as everyone needs and I really mean needs, to read this book, I felt compelled to share my thoughts as it has come at the most opportune time for me personally.

I was made aware of Nilofer Merchant https://twitter.com/nilofer by the awesome https://twitter.com/PerryTimms a few months ago, however was offered the chance to see her keynote talk at #HRD18 (HT https://twitter.com/Luke_OMahoney) last month, which was humble, inspiring & impactful.

I offer some of my main key takeaways and how they are relating to and/or calling me to action:

  • Onlyness (for me) = ones single, unique lens of the world that only you can see, but holds within it an opportunity to make a difference, whatever that means, bigger than yourself

One of the reasons this book has impacted me so much is that is that over the past 12 months I have been on a personal transformational journey which has included me dealing with my fears, becoming deeply & at times emotionally self-aware, realising that so much of what has previously held me back is within my head!  Living without personal accountability and too often in a victim mentality is never going to optimise personal growth.

Acknowledging & accepting that you, and only you, are holding yourself back is quite a revelation!

This book has helped me affirm that my unique onlyness

– someone that has strong international sales, marketing & people skills, has worked in a start-up company, has had some early life growing pains (including being bullied at ages 12 & 13 & minor mental health issues 18 months ago) but is fuelled by a deep seated personal purpose to serve & help others grow –

holds within it an opportunity to make a difference to the world bigger than myself

This has really confirmed for me also that my recently developed model, with self at the absolute centre, does hold value as a support for individual & organisational development:


The mental health stats, for the UK alone, justify the need for every human being and their respective unique Onlyness, needing to be understood and indeed sought in an organisational context:

  • Seeking others that share your world view / finding ones tribe

A common theme throughout the book for me is that to make the most of ones Onlyness, we need to:

  1. Understand what our unique Onlyness is,
  2. Seek others that we can collaborate/work with to bring our respective Onlyness to the fore, thereby building movements of change (the are some incredible stories contained within the book of this such as the one about the movement behind Holocaust survivor that managed to secure compensation from SNCF)
  3. That only by living our Onlyness can we turn the chronically low global engagement levels around from the current 1 in 3 at best being fully engaged (which has persisted for the past 3 decades)

blessing 2

Nilofer offers some suggestions how to do this which includes:

  1. Practice = online keyword searches
  2. Proximity = territory and geo searches
  3. Passion = content driven ( for me focus areas include breaking bias and vulnerability, especially in men)
  4. Providence = figure out where you can be to create opportunities for serendipity
  5. Purpose = finding those who share a commitment to a cause (Breaking Bias)
  • “Connect different circles of people, not just more people, to your common cause, not just commonalities”

This point is really powerful for me, especially at a time of widespread societal disconnection.

If I look at my personal journey, especially over the past 12-18 months, my network has transformed from being 95% organisationally focussed within a narrow industry sector, to a network that includes futurists, scrum masters, marketing directors, mentors, VR specialists, consultants, FDs, internal communications & energy specialists amongst others.  Does this matter?  100% yes as it has helped channel & challenge my personal & contextual growth and I believe that I have supported others with the same

As Candice Cross quoted during her D&I talk at #HRD18 “you cannot have diversity without inclusion” and to have too narrow a network does not include new ways of thinking, new challenge and new opportunities for growth, thereby stifling diversity.

  • “To rebel is to push against; to lead is to advocate for”

I found this quote really interesting.

There is a lot of talk around “rebelling” against the status quo, especially in the workplace & our major institutions right now, which is needed, however how much of this will result in widespread, advocated leadership after the initial rebellion has taken place?

I do not have the answer but would envisage that advocated leadership has to be a longer term solution, but thought this quote deserved particular mention.

How will our unique Onlyness help facilitate this change?

  • “Leaving people ‘disturbed’ with info and options and not ‘directed’ is key”

This is a fantastic quote and one that reminds me of established approaches such as Open Book Management & self organisation, both of which are both older concepts (20th century), but the time appears to be right for these approaches to become more widespread as technology & and an increased focus on more interpersonal/creative traits opens the door to so many more people to use their unique Onlyness in this ‘new world.’

  • “Creating a safe space to learn is more important than listening to someone’s view as to what works”

This quote reminds me of the increasing prevalence of Agile & Scrum working as a concept.  Regular iteration, MVPs & a safe space for making mistakes are gaining more profile.

This last point is key – Mistakes are too often still defined as a weakness vs a learning opportunity.  I am always inspired by reflecting on Garry Ridges approach, CEO of WD-40, where he focuses on ‘servant-leadership’ through ‘learning moments,’ not mistakes.

Key words / themes that summarise this book for me are included in the following world cloud – a truly, inspirational book that I cannot recommend enough:





2 thoughts on ““The Power of Onlyness” – Unique book title, next generation thinking

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