Nilofer Merchant believes that the only way to ensure your voice is heard is to embrace what she calls ‘onlyness’.

At this year’s Inspirefest, author and CEO Nilofer Merchant spoke about powering innovation, with reference to her 2017 book, The Power of Onlyness.

The main point that Merchant stressed at her talk was that originality fuels innovation – but originality can very often be discouraged. She explained what she had observed in various meetings throughout her career: “At any given time, there was only a select group who had ever had a shot at their ideas being heard.

“The people who got heard were the ones with the fanciest titles (even if their ideas were last year’s reruns) or the loudest person at the table.”

So, how can you bring an idea to the table if you’re not in a position of power? Merchant believes that the answer is embracing onlyness, or “the power we each have based on the spot where only we stand”. Instead of leaning in, she suggests that “we create the social spaces that allow ideas to be heard”.


Words by Kelly Earley