New Power

Quiet Revolution is excited to spread the word about Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans’ new book New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World – And How to Make it Work for You The authors sat down to answer these questions for Quiet Revolution: 

To get us started, what is the difference between old power and new power?

New power is the ultimate skill of the 21st century. It is the ability to harness the power of the connected crowd to make things happen. From Facebook, to #MeToo, to Donald Trump, those who master new power are, for better and for worse, transforming the world.  

Think of new power as flowing like a current. It’s made by many, it’s open, and it’s distributed. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

In contrast, old power works like a currency. It is held by few and once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven.

Why did you decide you wanted to explore new power?

We wanted to lay out the tools to help people succeed as leaders in their organizations and communities. The book, most of all, is a practical guide for people to use new power to navigate and succeed in today’s world. From how ideas spread, to how organizations transform, to how you raise money, there are a new set of capabilities everyone needs to learn.

We both come to this work as practitioners. Jeremy is a lifelong activist and co-founded Purpose, Avaaz, and GetUp!. Henry runs the 92nd Street Y in NYC and founded #GivingTuesday. The book is designed to help people make a difference in their everyday work.

What is your favorite example of new power?

Movements like #NeverAgain, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter are so inspiring. At its best, new power is genuinely making more people more powerful. There are also so many inspiring civic examples developing. from NHS health workers in the UK who are using new power to improve health outcomes, to a networked organization like the Little Free Library, which is bringing free books to communities around the world (and making those communities stronger by doing so).  

What is something you didn’t expect to learn while conducting research for this book?

So much! As we researched this book we discovered so many stories of people who are mobilizing people around important causes in critical ways. From nurses re-imagining healthcare in the Netherlands, to how NASA is engaging citizens in science, to how a new generation of government ministers are building better ways for people to participate in Taiwan.

Yet for all these positive examples, we ended the book more convinced than ever of how high the stakes are. Will the climate deniers spread their delusions more effectively than the climate scientists can share their facts? Will the messages from anti-vaxxers defeat those from public health professionals? The battle for new power is urgent. We need those on the side of the angels to win it.

New power seems like it could be more easily harnessed by extroverted people. How do you think introverts relate to new power?

I’m not sure we’d agree 🙂 Yes, there are example of extroverted individuals who have co-opted new power to their own ends, but more typically those who do well with new power are highly collaborative and participative, and don’t need to take up all the space. Extroverted leaders actually often end up “crowding out” their own communitieswe see that time and again.

We really admire Beth Comstock, who was the Vice Chair of GE. She is a fairly introverted person but has become one of the most powerful—and celebrated—leaders in the country. She did an inspiring job transforming GE to welcome in the crowd, working on edgy open innovation initiatives and transforming the internal culture to be more entrepreneurial. She was so effective precisely because she was prepared to foster the agency of others. She put a premium on listening, learning, and stepping back to allow others to step up. It was never all about her. Her progress was down to her genuine desire to make her colleagues, and her wider community, more powerful.