An exhortation to raise one’s freak flag, dust off that notebook full of plans and dreams, and set up shop.
Merchant (11 Rules for Creating Value in #SocialEra, 2012, etc.) has built a career as a brand of one. She was an early-ish hire at Apple and Autodesk and was hired (and fired, to her devastation) by Autodesk. She was also raised in a tradition-minded immigrant family that valued success—for men, that is. As a business consultant, she has since become an advocate for level playing fields for those outside the system, the target audience for her concept of “onlyness,” built on experience, talents, and ideas in possession only of particular individuals, such as the African-American woman engineer who, against the odds, worked her way through Vanderbilt and was instrumental in getting that institution to divest itself of holdings in Apartheid-era South Africa. “If only a few ideas are valued,” Merchant writes, “the wealth of many humans is lost.” By Merchant’s account, social media and the web do much to create that level playing field in which outside-the-box, outside-the-system ideas can get an airing, though the largely unstated problem is not expressing them but driving audiences to find them. Still, after some false starts and the business-book-as-usual laying out of a few wondrous anecdotes to support the rightness and wrongness of approach, the author gets down to some interesting cases, including a grass-roots effort to convince the Boy Scouts to abandon anti-gay policies and a self-styled cougar’s campaign against pornography. Unfortunately, there’s too much windup, the narrative is scattershot, and the scaffolding is wobbly. The best of Merchant’s case studies illustrate the operating principles of cultural difference and the power of persistence in getting things done.
A by-the-numbers business book stuffed with case studies of success and failure but also with good material for priming the pump.