AUTHOR. SPEAKER. BASED IN SILICON VALLEY.  | Because it is unusual, you might want help to know how to say the name. Any chance you remember those cookies that Nabisco creates called Nilla-wafer’s? That will help, cause the name sounds a lot like that but with an o in the middle. It’s Nil – O – fer.  (Just don’t call her NIL or FUR, okay?)

Nilofer Merchant is a master at turning seemingly “wild” ideas into new realities and showing the rest of us how we can too.  She has done so through her books, her top ranked TED talk, and her accomplishments at Fortune 500 companies and startups. So much so that she was awarded the Future Thinker Award from Thinkers50, which ranks the world’s leading business thinkers and which also named her the #1 person most likely to influence the future of management in both theory and practice.

She began her career in business 25 years ago as an administrative assistant, and quickly rose to division leader, to CEO to board member of a NASDAQ-traded company gathering monikers such as the “Jane Bond of Innovation” along the way for her ability to guide organizations through impossible odds.

She has personally launched more than 100 products, netting $18B in sales and has held executive positions at everywhere from Fortune 500 companies like Apple and Autodesk to 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 on new product strategies, entering new markets, defending against competitors, and optimizing revenues. Merchant is one of the few people who can say they’ve fought a competitive battle against Microsoft and won, for Symantec’s Anti-Virus $2.1B annual business. She has served on boards for both public and private companies, as well as on governance boards on public policies.

The author of two previous books on how organizations can better employ new ideas, Merchant’s latest, THE POWER OF ONLYNESS: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World (Viking Hardcover, August 29, 2017), shares her insider expertise with general readers to reveal new ways of connecting our ideas to the world around us in an era when the potential to make a difference is no longer bound by social status.

CNBC has called Nilofer a visionary. Her 2nd book, 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, was released in the Fall of 2012, by Harvard Business Press. It was chosen by Fast Company as one of the Best Business Books of 2012.

This Yes & Know blog has been around since 2003. You’ll find ideas that are both “provocative and yet practical” as Seth Godin has said. Nilofer has been featured in the WSJ, written innovation columns for BusinessWeek and Forbes. You’ve probably seen her byline and ideas in publications like the Harvard Business Review, Wired, and Oprah.  A TED speaker, she shares the stage with luminaries regularly, including Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell, and Bono (yes, THAT Bono). Her ideas resonate because they help close the gap between idea and reality.

Wife and mother, a wilderness backpacker in the summer, and an avid hiker year-round – she gets around. She is an unfortunate addict of caffeine, poetry, dark-chocolate-covered-orange-peels that are best when eaten in France, and all-things-bacon.

Learn More About Nilofer as a Speaker

While most blog posts at Yes & Know are not personal, some of her stories are shared here.


The quiet and art-filled office space overlooking majestic oak trees, the joy of working with Mike Mace,  the significant source of income for our family. These were things I thought of when I thought of what I was losing when shutting down Rubicon. What I didn’t think of until it happened was this: when you are between things, how do you answer the question of “who are you”?

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The Jane Bond of Innovation

“Are you a corporate spy, or something?” This was the first question from the audience as I began an innovation workshop at a Boston firm. “No,” I said, “I’m not a corporate spy.” After all, I was there to help them. “Well, then,” she asked, “why the ‘Jane Bond’ reference in your Bio?” Ah, yes, the Bond reference. It’s a product of history…

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Moments define, or rather they let us redefine who we are.

We are all familiar with the story of Rosa Parks and how it contributed to the civil rights movement. She refused to obey the bus driver’s order to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. At the time, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. Nonetheless, she took her action as a private citizen, saying simply, “I am tired of giving in.”

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