Lisa Nirell's Marketing Waves Blog

Book Review: The Power of Onlyness

The Power of Onlyness book coverBuilding strong communities and commitment to your innovative marketing solutions and ideas may be the smartest thing you do in 2018.

Inspiring stories and pragmatic advice fill the pages of Nilofer Merchant’s 2nd book, The Power of Onlyness.

The author’s advice, however, isn’t for people who are trying to impress others, or fit into, as she coined it, “anyone else’s arbitrary and antiquated rules.” This book is for thinkers and doers, not dreamers.

Merchant coined the term “onlyness” as finding your unique sense of what matters. And the emphasis is on YOUR sense. She provokes us not to ask “what does the world/market/customer need?” Instead, she gains inspiration from another prolific author and adventure-seeker, Cheryl Strayed: “Ask What has been given to me? What do I have to give back? Then, act.”

As you navigate a plethora of stories of people who found their onlyness, you’ll find some solid advice to uncover and act upon your vision. For example, Merchant suggests that you identify what you are drawn to doing. “What are the niggling questions that won’t let you rest? What is the one thing you really want to do, but you’re worried someone won’t approve of it?”

You’ll find inspiration from myriad visionaries, such as Tom Reilly, the founder of the TED Fellows program. He codified a process to promote strong bonds among disparate difference-makers. (See Part II). His commitment to building this community spawned multiple collaborations. The TED Fellows banded together and spawned innovations to help the blind, unite genetic engineers, and even help heal injured civilians during the 2011 Libyan revolution.

Not all of Merchant’s stories have happy endings. That gives further gravitas to her narrative, and makes the leaders more human. Furthermore, I appreciate that Merchant isn’t trying to sell her concept as a leadership panacea.

For example, in Chapter 8, Merchant profiles a Kenyan tech company named Ushahidi. Although their self-proclaimed “structure less” distributed authority model generated a widely-used tool to track emergencies and crises, its Executive Director was recently accused of sexual harassment.

Ushahidi is a sobering reminder that it takes more than commitment to make a dent in the world, or bring an innovative marketing solution to the world. It also takes a strong moral compass and a clear set of values among your stakeholders.

Nilofer Merchant The Power of Onlyness

Nilofer Merchant

The pursuit of our onlyness is not for the faint-hearted. Innovative marketing solutions don’t live inside a focus group, an algorithm, or a Google search. They live deep inside us. Thanks to Nilofer Merchant, we have permission to discover and mine that gold—the precious metal of onlyness.

We look forward to welcoming Nilofer on October 12 as our guest speaker at the Marketing Leaders of DC gathering. You can learn more about Nilofer Merchant on her website and follow her on Twitter @nilofer.

Copyright 2017, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.


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