Onlyness for a design studio

What is your onlyness?

The term onlyness was invented by Nilofer Merchant, an author, and leading authority on creating business strategy to achieve success.

Nilofer has honed her unique, collaborative approach to solving tough problems while working with and for companies including Adobe, Apple, Nokia, and HP.

This is how she described coming up with the word.

“I was writing an economics, business book, and I was trying to describe how the way we create value has changed, and I was trying to say “that thing that only you do.” I was twiddling with words like “uniqueness” and “distinctive,” but none of them told the full story, so I said let’s make up a word. It refers to that spot in the world that only you are standing in. It’s such a distinctive point of view. It’s your creative source. It’s the perspective that allows you to challenge convention. It is that idea that only you have.”

Onlyness is that thing that only an individual can bring to a situation. It includes the journey and passions of each human. Onlyness is fundamentally about honouring each person: first as we view ourselves and second as we are valued. Each of us is standing in a spot that no one else occupies.

This is a concept that I have used a lot in my workshops and in the Design Business School.

Consider that if you bring your team together and you uncover their onlyness then you have identified your competitive advantage.

You can move the onlyness to your Vision, Mission, Values and Purpose statements which in turn lead to your design value proposition.

It sounds easy? It’s actually hard work and takes a lot of introspection, refinement and then encapsulation to get to your design value proposition.

However once you have it you have your key messaging for your business and you’ve built a culture in the business. This means everyone in the business embodies your culture.

This leads to everyone building your competitive advantage and that leads to more and better clients. Add the idea that you are now selling design value and you have a very successful business.

It all starts with your onlyness.


Contact Greg Branson if you would like to learn more about becoming a design disruptor.

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Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.