The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World

An innovation expert illuminates why your power to make a difference is no longer bound by your status

BY NILOFER MERCHANT  |  If you’re like most people, you wish you had the ability to make a difference, but you don’t have the credentials or a seat at the table, or can’t get past the gatekeepers, or aren’t high enough in any hierarchy to get your ideas heard.

The Power of OnlynessIn The Power of Onlyness, Nilofer Merchant, one of the world’s top-ranked business thinkers, reveals that, in fact, we have now reached an unprecedented moment of opportunity for your ideas to “make a dent” on the world. Now that the Internet has liberated ideas to spread and scale through networks rather than hierarchies, power is no longer determined by your status, but by “onlyness”—that spot in the world only you stand in, a function of your distinct history and experiences, visions and hopes. If you build upon your signature ingredient of purpose and connect with those who are equally passionate, you have a new lever by which to move the world. Dent by dent, the world can be reshaped to include you and what you believe in.

This new ability is already within your grasp, but to command it, you need to know how to meaningfully mobilize others around your ideas. Through inspirational and instructive stories, Merchant reveals proven strategies to unleash the might of a new idea—no matter how weird or wild it may seem—so that you, too, can disrupt the status quo. Nearly thirty stories show onlyness in action. Some are inspiring, like how Franklin Leonard’s Black List opened up Hollywood’s elite doors to script writers outside the establishment and how Talia Milgrom-Elcott’s 100kin10’s tiny staff mobilized the training of a hundred thousand STEM teachers against the odds. Other stories reveal the lessons of failure: why the Occupy Wall Street movement fell short in uniting people, and why we need to ask more of tech companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to deliver on the promise of the Internet to democratize ideas. And, in the stories of PatientsLikeMe and Ushahidi, Merchant reveals how to build the one thing we need most to create change in these turbulent times: trust.

Imagine how much better the world could be if every idea could have its shot, not just the ones that come from expected people and places. Which long-intractable problems would we solve, what new levels of creativity would be unlocked, and who might innovate a breakthrough that could benefit ourselves, our communities, and especially our economy? This boundless potential of onlyness has already been recognized by Thinkers 50, the Oscars of management, which cited it as one of the five ideas that will shape business for the next twenty years.

Why do some individuals make scalable impact with their ideas, regardless of their power or status? The Power of Onlyness unravels this mystery for the first time so that anyone can make a dent. Even you.

No longer do we need to worry about how our ideas will be judged. By showing us how to mobilize communities around our ideas, Nilofer Merchant shows us why and how we can elevate the power of our ideas to limitless heights unfettered by conformity.

– Amy Cuddy. author of Presence
With The Power of Onlyness, Nilofer Merchant passes all three tests of a masterpiece: 1) memorable stories; 2) actionable insights; and 3) urgent relevance to now!

– Tom Peters. author of In Search of Excellence