TEDxNewEngland Talk – Nilofer Merchant on Inclusivity

How would you reinvent business, reinvent America, or reinvent the world?

This is the question I was asked to answer a few weeks back for a #TEDtalk.  TEDxNewEngland’s event was held at the WGBN station, just 3 weeks before the US National Election and the amazing organizers asked a range of politicians, economists, national policy leaders and educators to consider what we would want for America if we could “reinvent it”. I was already going to be on a whirlwind book tour, which I wrote about a few days ago, so I shared some thoughts on the topic.

Everywhere we look, there are groups that believe they are on the outs, unable to influence policy, and believing they are unrepresented or at least underrepresented in the direction of their own country. Is that because many people in power actually believe that power is a limited commodity? That America should be protected and insulated to allow it to thrive?

Yet, we live in an incredible time: the Social Era, with its connected networks enables more than just the sharing of information — it allows the sharing of power. Connected individuals with shared interests and goals, can create together in ways that once only a few could. Those that continue to think that power is about a few “us” vs the many “them” are finding themselves confused by what is going on. Some are holding on even more tightly. Regardless of their wishes …  the times, they are ‘achanging.

There is plenty of evidence that the Social Era will allow a fundamental shift; it is a shift from “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” posture of limitations to “if you’re not against us, you can be with us” stance of abundance. This shift will lead to many things  —  as we let go, we will be poised to create opportunity and abundance, and in doing so enable long-term prosperity. We will get to new and better solutions–and a lot more of them–faster, but only if we open up who is allowed to participate, and share our power with EVERYONE. While not everyone will, anyone can.

So that was my answer in this talk, shared here. I would open up our organizations to allow many more people to participate in the creating of new solutions. I would have organizations collaborate with the marketplace to find new approaches to old problems. I would invite anyone, quite possibly everyone to contribute their onlyness — to step up and into the bigness of becoming part of the solution. This is how I would reinvent business, reinvent America, and reinvent the world. How would you?

2 Replies

  1. Nilofer… I understand your story, but mine is similar. I’m from the Caribbean. I’m from the southernmost island of the chain, closer to Latin America. I’m of mixed race second genration immigrants and looks quite African, at least to me and a lot of other people. Kind of like African, Indian and Caucasian. I’m from a small (cocoa and citrus estate plantation) family so I can relate to abundance and closeness of the people around who would bring fruit, milk, bread, and food gifts. I was schooled at home in a private setting, then sent to Elementary School. On my first day at school, the children were all lined up and I had to stand last in line because I was new. The late-comers would also have to stand in behind. While I stood in the line, this older girl came up from behind because she was late. I barely could see her as she grabbed my two unusually long braids that were kept with ribbons on the end and she swung at me saying, “Hey, everybody, look a ‘c……….’ (a derogative word for East Indian Immigrants).” I was beaten so badly. My first day at school was ruined as I taken to the hospital that day when I regained consciousness and my balance. The doctors measured a 9″ cut along my back which seared for hours. In life, this caused me to identify with and understand the offspring of the East Immigrant more than anyone else especially when I worked in selection processes. I also do make fun of it sometimes by saying that I was beaten for them. In my work life, I became the best that I could ever be. I rose to become the winner of an open national title. Yet, when I worked in the Corporate setting which was Caucasian male dominated I was passed up and a Caucasian female was hired. I have become estranged from for the Corporate mainstream. I have a pastoral Leadership and Business Intelligence Training company. I am in two volunteer positions which keeps me in touch with reality and I am called upon from time to time to speak.If work comes, I work. If none, I refit.

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