A study of the “new power” made possible by connectivity.
Heimans, CEO of Purpose, which “builds and supports social movements,” and Timms, executive director of the 92nd Street Y, debut with an illuminating discussion of how technology and our rising expectations have enabled us to achieve our goals on a greater-than-ever scale. Old power, write the authors, depends on expertise and what you own or control, as in Fortune 500 companies. New power relies on connectivity and the desire to participate and collaborate, as in Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook (as well as protest movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter and terrorist groups like the Islamic State). Using online engagement, crowdsourcing, and peer-to-peer approaches, new power offers a fresh means of participation and a “heightened sense of agency” for all involved. The authors detail how power—old, new, or a combination of both—is now exercised by people, companies, and movements to quietly shape our lives in impactful ways. Old power has the top-down voice of a corporate press release; new power soars through “meme drops,” which “spread sideways, coming most alive when remixed, shared, and customized by peer communities”—e.g., in the ice bucket challenge and Pepe the Frog. Heimans and Timms provide fascinating examples of new power at work: how NASA enlisted the crowd (nonexperts) to foster open innovation; the heightened participatory experience of worship at Denver’s House of All Sinners and Saints, where whoever shows up is in charge; and how crowdsourcing of ideas rejuvenated the Lego brand. The authors also offer a cogent analysis of the contrasting campaigning styles of Barack Obama (participatory) and Donald Trump (“leader of a vast, decentralized social media army” via Twitter). Their accounts of how diverse groups like the National Rifle Association and TED use both old and new power approaches with great success may well inspire many.
These ideas—first introduced in the Harvard Business Review—will intrigue anyone who wants to channel the new power of the crowd.