The Power to Innovate: Salesforce 2018 Keynote

Most of us believe that the strongest ideas will win the day. That success of one’s original ideas is some combination of sheer brilliance, dogged grit, and fervent hustle. After all, no one questions that new ideas matter. Ideas are like engines, they are what pull us into the future. Ideas matter to our careers, our companies, our industries, our economy, and society. They affect both profits and progress.

Yet there’s plenty of evidence that some ideas get thrown out before they even have a chance to be considered. Not because the idea is deemed unworthy but because the person bringing the idea was deemed unworthy of being heard.

Maybe you can think back to specific meetings and think of how this has played out.

  • It’s the admin whose idea is dismissed just because she didn’t rock the lingo.
  • It’s the salesperson’s ideas dismissed because engineering’s perspective was prioritized.
  • It the regional person who isn’t called upon, like the HQ corporate folks.

Often, far too often, one’s place in the organization defines one’s power. Whether it’s rank or expertise, or role, that place you hold in the organization can deeply shape whether your ideas get their proverbial shot.

Now, there are people who say it’s okay if someone doesn’t have the power or the place—or the right gender or the right skin tone—to have their ideas heard. Sure, it’s unfortunate for them, but not for us. Surely, that idea will manifest through someone else, someplace else, at some other time (and, P.S. – they should just try harder).

But that’s simply not true. How can it be?! It’s something that people who ALREADY have power today say—maybe to make themselves feel better as they otherize and silence and ignore… maybe because they are afraid of losing their status in the world, maybe because they genuinely don’t understand…

The truth is that each of us – each of you– stand in a spot in the world where ONLY you stand. From this spot is how one creates value. Onlyness. It’s a function of our distinct history and experience, visions and hopes. Onlyness is the place of power each of us has. We don’t all share the same PLACE – and that’s actually the key strength needed for growth & innovation.

When ‘power of place’ rules, those who “should” have an idea get heard. When each of our ‘place of power’ is valued, ideas are heard and evaluated for its power. This shift is tectonic, From those who already have a place of power, to which ideas are powerful.

Yes, onlyness is a newish word. Yet, it is badly needed. Because words shape the way we see the world. And if we’re to access the ideas that fuel innovation, we need a new frame.

And right now EVERY word currently used to describe true originality is a relative and comparative one. Think about it. Difference. Diversity. Left-Field. Weird. Unique. Even when said positively, they are all comparative and relative. These existing words embody a bias because they measure against those who ALREADY have power. Those who ALREADY count. Those who ALREADY have the place of power by virtue of their title, or by virtue of their birth.

But Onlyness isn’t comparative or relative. It says all original ideas need to count.

Onlyness centers correctly on the ideas that EACH of us contributes. Not that everyone will, but that anyone can, contribute.  And from that bigger and better pool of ideas, we can fill our innovation capacities.

Which is why Onlyness matters to our organizations: it unlocks each of us — by standing in our own place — to add our bit to the world. And, It unlocks a level of innovation and creativity we desperately need in our organizations.

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