Anyone Can, and This One Does

Jack Andraka a 15-year-old student from Maryland, came up with a paper sensor that detects pancreatic cancer 168 times faster than current tests. It’s also 90% accurate, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times less expensive than today’s methods. In short: It’s a lot better. Andraka was inspired to focus on pancreatic cancer because a friend’s brother was killed by the disease. “I became interested in early detection, did a ton of research, and came up with this idea,” he says.

If the Social Era is about how to formulate value with and by individual humans, then having a system where each human can be fully engaged becomes central to how new work happens.

The foundation starts with celebrating something I’ve termed onlyness. Each of us is standing in a spot no one else occupies. That unique point of view is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and vision. The person who has a friend with a disease might grow up to work in medicine to find the cure. The person who obsessed about beautiful details might end up caring about Industrial Design, and reinvent how we all use technology. The person who has grown up with oppression, might end up advocating for freedom of voice and thus create the next social platform. And it is this source, this onlyness, which fuels all creativity, inventions, and ultimately innovations.

It’s not that everyone will, but that anyone can. Be the one to enable anyone to contribute, and you win. It’s a way in which market power will be formulated in the Social Era.

Without this tenant embedded into how value is created, then we return to the work construct of the 20th century and traditional strategy: that people are simply cogs in a machine – easily replaceable, and relatively unvalued.

Now, that has several implications. For each of us… it means, to be a contributor, you cannot deny your own history but to embrace it as source. When any of us deny our unique point of view, we deny that which only we can bring to the situation, our onlyness. The difference is key to solving both new problems and looking at things anew to solve old problems.

The other implication is the one for leaders of organizations — if you want an organization that is ready for and even thriving in the Social Era – you must know how to enable, nurture, and activate anyone to show up and create.

More on that story of Jack by FC:

4 Replies

  1. One of the key changes for the organization of the future is that it is no longer about getting buy-in from employees. In the age of social, you must get self-enrollment. Some businesses are at the extreme end of this…eg, IDEO….with teams self forming around what they want to work on.
    I love the story of Jack Andraka, thanks for publishing.

  2. Pingback: How to Celebrate Your Employees’ “Onlyness”: An Excerpt from #SocialEra by Nilofer Merchant
  3. Pingback: The Word: Onlyness « Sherry Clayton Works
  4. Pingback: Scaling “Only-Ness” | Petervan
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