The first step to unlocking talent in the #SocialEra is celebrating something I’ve termed onlyness.
Onlyness is that thing that only that one individual can bring to a situation. It includes the journey and passions of each human. 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. Some of those experiences are not as “perfect” as we might want, but even those experiences are a source for what you create. For example, the person whose younger sibling has a disease might grow up to work in medicine to find the cure. The person who is obsessed with beautiful details might end up caring about industrial design and reinvent how we all use technology. The person who has grown up under oppression might end up advocating for freedom of speech and thus advance the condition of his country. This individual onlyness is the fuel of vast creativity, innovations, and adaptability.
Someone can be (for example) only woman in a crowd, but this is not her onlyness. In this case, she is unique because of the context. Onlyness may be present in that story, but onlyness is not a relative thing. It more about what makes that person unique based on their own story, or their “through-line” of their own story, their own narrative. I am trying to point out the inherent source of each person.
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. Without it, people are simply cogs in a machine – dispensable and undervalued – and we’re back to the 800-pound gorilla approach in organizations (and our economy). With it, gazelles [employees, community members, and partners] are singularly unique and able to contribute meaningfully.
Now, this fall I gave a great many talks, and I learned a lot in the process. This talk that follows is on Onlyness and is — by far — my FAVORITE (and quite possibly the best — if I put my humility aside for a second) talk I’ve ever given. Not only is the topic one I care about deeply, it resonates because it speaks to a universal truth. Which is this:
It’s not that everyone will, but that anyone can contribute.
And until we celebrate onlyness, we are not honoring the person. And, until you unlock your onlyness, you are not fully alive. And, collectively, until we honor onlyness, we are limiting ourselves, our organizations and our economies.