Where do great ideas come from?

Are you the One with all the ideas? Some people think they need to be. That they’re job is to be the “Chief of Answers”.

But it’s not true! Well, it is, and it’s not. This question deserves more than a yes/no, this/that response. (Which is it’s why we’ve explored it so many times at Yes & Know, in articles, talks, reflections, and such.

And most recently in the recent 3-part series:

A Different Kind of Tipping Point, and
Let Me Change What You See In the Mirror, and then,
You Will Show Me Myself Anew

These connected and interlinked long-form stories – tell how a Fortune MPW/ Vital Voices network enabled two entrepreneurs — to claim their onlyness. The surprising, even counter-intuitive part of onlyness is that you do not make ideas powerful enough to dent the world all by yourself. It has to be centered in your history and experience, visions and hopes. But, it is not isolated. Quite the contrary. Who surrounds us, affects us. In what we see in ourselves, in what we discover is possible and in what paths we end up taking. Despite the legends, myths, and countless Fast Company profiles of entrepreneurs succeeding because of their rugged individualism, the truth is that big ideas always involves an “us”.

You each help make this Yes & Know community vibrant, active and alive. Your comments on these blogs are feeding the work of the writing of my book, Onlyness. For which I am so grateful. And your emails keep me motivated when I feel inadequate to the task. (Which is more often than I’d care to admit.)

Because of that, I want to give back to all of you — and encourage you to continue to participate in our community. The fitness company,Equinox, has generously provided us with five custom Mophies to distribute– to power our communications, our lives.

Let’s celebrate communities that embolden us, challenge us and move us forward.

(Perhaps because they remind you to have bigger ideas, or because they represent an idea you value, or perhaps its that you encourage them to keep chasing their idea. You decide. Pick as many as you want.) Send a note of what that support has meant in 2014. You can Tweet, FB, or write handwritten notes. [You can even keep it private if you want to!] But if you want to win the Equinox Mophie, just give us some clue you’ve done it by tagging it with #onlyness. Easier still for us to track and include you…  is to have you leave a picture / comment here.


Looking so forward to reading your entries. Five will be rewarded with an Equinox-branded Mophie to continue powering forward.

They are very kind to us; you should know of Equinox

Equinox operates 73 upscale, full-service clubs in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Dallas and Washington, DC, as well as international locations in London and Toronto.  The company offers an integrated selection of Equinox-branded programs, services and products, including strength and cardio training, studio classes, personal training, spa services and products, apparel and food/juice bars.  Since its inception in 1991, Equinox has developed a lifestyle brand that represents service, value, quality, expertise, innovation, attention to detail, market leadership and results. IT’S NOT FITNESS. IT’S LIFE.



Five of you (randomly selected; each submission counts as one entry) will each win one Equinox Fitness-branded Mophie. Just share your thoughts and opinions on this site by January 15 and you’ll be eligible to win!  Looking forward to sharing the winners names on January 16, 2015

24 Replies

  1. my community was motivating, encouraging, making me think, challenging me, my ideas, my concepts. That feedback kept me going, improving, working. They offered support, help, opportunites and finally: I wouldn’t be where I am without these great (online & offline) communities I’m in.

      1. Nilofer, sorry for dropping off, we’ve had a busy and demanding time during the last weeks. Th core groups I spend my energy for – and get much more back in return – are both dealing with mew work topics. the first one is consist of people who intend, try, work on creating “happy work” – some of them for themselves as employees, same (as myself) for others as consultants, some already made it and now spend their time in helping others into a state where work is fun and where their life now is much more worthwhile.
        The other group just finished a crowdfunded film project where they identifies “workplaces of the future” i.e. companies that are managed in a different way, with focus on values, co-operation, flexibility and culture. The outcome will have it’s opening night on Friday this week. and can afterwards be downloaded and shown for free.
        The thing basically is, that – after I spend a good proportion of my worklife in a setting which was (and still is for many of those, who are still in there) demotivating and stressful (with high amount of corrosive energy and resignative inertia (following the “organizational energy concept by Heike Bruch)) I had to change something. So I quitted my job and restarted more or less from scratch. I found my passion in topics like vision, culture & leadership and now, after 3 1/2 years of consultancy work in this area I am approaching the top end of new work business consultants. On that way I learned a lot and every single day – which hopefully will remain for the rest of my life – about people, their fears, their challenges and all the positive and all the energy you can activate in companies as well as in peoples hearts and souls once you inspire they to reevaluate their passion, purpose and the real goals they have.

  2. My community is the global community of women who graduated from the Global Women’s Leadership Network program — Women Leaders for the World. We share a common goal — creating a better world for humanity. As a “community of “commitment” we inspire each other, give solace in the face of adversity, share wisdom, celebrate our victories (large and small), and gather strength through knowing we Are part of a vibrant community.

    1. Linda – It’s interesting to me to read your description because I’m coming to see our communities we belong to are a reflection of us, and vice versa. It’s why we belong. So using your own language, you are committed to other women, to share wisdom, to celebrate victories and to simply “be” there as strength of and by one another.

  3. I belong to another community. This one is a sub group of the International Women’s Forum. It is called Advancing Women’s Futures. We are dedicated to using our gifts and experience — together– accomplish this goal. I draw my life’s joy from my family and from the work around the world.

    1. I’m curious about something.

      You mention Corporate Rebels (which I know of) and can see the “why” in it.
      But the other one you mention is tied to a person, a brand. What do you think that says?

      1. I think it says that I am one of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of folks who are not only inspired by Seth but are also able to learn from him and from each other as fellow brothers in the cause…

        I dont know if you know this, there are meetups organized in various cities where Seth’s fans meet each other and network and learn from each other..

        Knowing that someone valued his work and philosophy of work made us fellow brothers (irrespective of the industry or the field of work we did)..

        Hope that does clarify my including his tribe in the list of communities..

        And thanks for guiding Peter and the rest of us rebels 😉

        Btw, I loved your TED Talk about walking meetings and have incorporated them in my schedule so that i complete my target of walking 12k steps a day.. Thanks for inspiring me..

        1. Thank for being inspired.

          The idea deserves the credit, not me. I might have birthed it and articulated it in that moment, but it doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to us.

          I know Seth’s community quite well. (At one point, I went to one of his gatherings in NYC because i wanted to ask his advice on naming second book, and felt quite guilty doing it even though we’re loosely acquaintances and have known each other for years. He’s endorsed, for example, both of my books. I thought paying for the opportunity to ask his advice would be respectful way of doing it. I learned a lot from the experience.)

          Seth definitely gathers a lot of people who are freelancers, creatives and people looking to do meaningful work. I’m just surprised it’s “seth’s tribe” instead of “our tribe that believes xyz… “

          1. Thanks for taking time and engaging with us.. I do believe that we could look at the tribe as our tribe that believes in ‘xyz’ of which Seth is also a part of ..

            I guess that’s a different perspective & I understand what this enables us to do.. Thanks for opening up new perspective for me..

            Have a great day..

  4. Well, gosh. Let’s see. I decided a long time ago that I absolutely needed to create a unique and “undefined” network that I could learn from and grow with as a unit. I think that’s what people forget when it comes to locating networks, is to not just limit yourself to one, but to instead compile a group of disparate people who don’t just teach, but people who are wise enough to encourage you to find your space to grow from their teachings under the proverbial learning tree. While they work for some, narrow and specific networks weren’t necessarily going to cut it for me.

    My network is comprised literally of the top 10 or 20 thinkers that I admire in the world. I meet them, and if I find in them the qualities that not just make me stronger, but also allow me to grow, then I add them. One of my favorite things to do from there is to dive into that person’s networks and see who’s in there, and then “cherry pick” some of those folks, too. The best is when you have two or three people from completely different walks of life in your unique network that you’re then able to connect and then they begin to “shockingly” influence each other.

    The key to growth is not to just find “Network X,” but it’s to create your own network culling what you feel are the best people and ideas from every other network you engage (which means actively engaging as many networks as possible). This truly is the “social era,” social media allowing for easy access to others’ networks, and the ability to create the in-person meetings that strengthen those ties, too.

    1. What an intentional way to design for growth. SO ridiculously impressed.

      The whole thing reminds me of Gryffindor’s sword from the magical world of Harry Potter. It only takes in that which makes it stronger.

      1. Thanks! Apt comparison, too!

        I believe it’s the only way. I’ve lived a lot of lives and worn a lot of hats. At every stop along the way, the unifying theme has always been locating the unique worth in individuals. When you find those themes, you have to exploit them to their (and your) greatest benefit. When you turn that “exploitation” into a domino chain, that’s what leads to all sorts of doors opening that you’d never expect to ever have available. To me, in the digital/sharing age, this is what those advancements were supposed to allow us to accomplish. I’m just following the path I see that’s now been established.

  5. I belong to a community of values driven New Zealand public servants. Of note is that some of these public servants don’t actually work in the public sector.

    They are public servants because they’ve taken responsibility for making things happen for fellow citizens in a Government 3.0 era.

    It’s a community of warm smiles, firm handshakes and staunch commitment. We meet away from our places of work because we shake the foundations of the status quo.

    We enlist in each others causes because that’s the only way to change the world: through service to what other people think is worthwhile.

    I’m a link person, a confidante and a gate keeper. Part of my job is to look for connectedness and then put complementary people in the same rooms. Sometimes I facilitate. Sometimes I draw up business models or project plans. Sometimes I just buy the coffee.

    This community is happening here because Kiwi’s don’t accept things to be the way they are if we can figure out a better way. Part of our promise to the world is to try things first and take important stands.

    It’s a hard road though. Decades of emphasizing execution have produced strongly anchored cadres of peers short on imagination and long on bloody minded determination

    Shrinking baselines, service disruption around the private-public boundary (and a weak plural: HT to @mintzberg141), collapsing career paths and plunging depreciation of legacy skill sets make a breeding ground for self-protective behaviour.

    Which is not the basis for appointing public servants. Hence our community. Because the bottom line for leadership is taking responsibility for making things better. And values-based leadership will help us realize the promise of a collaboration-era public service.


    1. I hope I get a chance to witness this group in action one day.

      Your words are inspiring. Especially, “this community is happening because Kiwis’s don’t accept things to be the way they are if we can figure out a better way… try things first, take important stands.”. If that’s not modern leadership by embodying an idea, I don’t know what is. Hats off to you, Rohan.

      And revealing. Who we associate it defines us, in a way. I was struck by how much work used to be the place we did that. http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/12/what-we-give-up-when-we-become-entrepreneurs.html. In this article Jeff Pffeffer and Adam Grant talk about what we’re losing when we lose the office. I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means to belong to a community. For example, I belong to something called, “Spark Camp” which is a conference created first around journalism but then across other cross-cuts of society. I’ve written about it before because I was so impressed by what they fostered: conversation. And then there are times when I’ve called myself a TEDster, which was a way of signaling i cared about ideas that matter. Some feminists I know who want to changetheratio belong to a private email forum and call themselves Li.sters etc. As work is evermoreso freed from jobs, I think we’re all trying to find new ways to say “I belong to this” — a way of shaping our identity, certainly our minds, but mostly our sense of connectedness to the things that matter to us.

      1. Thank you for the kind words Nilofer.

        Public servants are curious creatures. They’re motivated by belief… which means they are too often disappointed.

        Someone once said that a cynic is a disappointed idealist: part of what good leaders do is look for cynics, find out where they’ve been disappointed and then give them a pathway back to what they believe in.

        There are communities like ours throughout the public service worldwide: there’ll be one near you. Our national bird is shy and nocturnal: rarely seen. Communities of public servants like this are the same. It’s just a case of knowing what to look for.

        Jennifer’s article talks about sacrifice: ‘what we give up’. Sacrifice is intimate with belief because we can only hope that we set aside will return to us in the form of a better outcome.

        Michelle’s audience seemed to consist of people searching for significance: the early decades of our careers we search for success, while in the latter we search for significance. My sense is this is why the values-based leadership is gathering such pace. There is a large cadre of leaders-in-waiting who are ready to take up the cause.

        The term ‘precariat’ is powerful and feels prescient. The paragraph about ‘identity stress’ seems to get close to the heart of the issue. The article is excellent food for thought and gives pause for thought about the human impact of the Big Shift for which some of us impatiently wait.

        Agreed, this seems likely to come down to ‘I belong to this’ and our sense of connectedness. Hence your article and our responses. The exciting things about searches for identity is they always end at our own front door.

  6. My approach in the Ideas Find and future thinking on the one hand the consequences of his own instinct and the call of the heart and the other in the sense of Co-Creating of a Future World as You, Nilofer, there also are suggesting. This is by recognizing one’s own uniqueness, overcoming fear and the recognition that we are all connected. Everything is energy: every thought, every action. We can overcome the old by being creative, cooperators, network-enabled and community-capable. And courageous.

  7. As a I started to answer the statement posed by you, I came to a big realization. I can’t think of a community with whom I genuinely identify with – and here I am complaining about wanted to build community! After much thought, it would have to be nature lovers because they respect what is bigger and wiser than us.

    1. I always love it when someone asks me a new question, it gets me to think about something and so it gave me a little chill to see this question lit up something in you, Linda. Thanks!

  8. Big core question, and lots of ways of looking at it!

    Communities of Ideology: all your belief systems, religious, social, political, environmental…
    Communities of Geography: all the you’ve places lived.
    Communities of Circumstance: gender, race, health, wealth, family…
    Communities of Association: friends, networks, affiliations, clubs, schools, family (again)…

    I thought it would be interesting to try and map out some of this in a visual way, identifying some of these communities for myself, to see how large I perceived them to be in relationship to each other and to see where there were overlaps or intersections of these communities.

    I thought I’d begin with Communities of Association and the results illuminating!

    It turns out the communities that have the most overlap (and maybe influence?) are artists who I went to school with, who I’m still personal friends and with whom I maintain a social network connection.

    To see my colorful (is it a map or a graph or a chart?) Check out your FB Page or my blog post (as I can’t seem to post it here):


  9. The community I identify most with is my artistic community. It is full of such support and kindness, creativity and innovation, motivation and inspiration, thoughtfulnes, hard work and strokes of genius that I cannot even begin to say how thankful I am for it!

    1. Just like you, Marie. The thing I’ve been observing about this process is this: name your community and why you belong… and this is you.

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