Understanding “New Power”

December, 2014. 

An article by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms in the Harvard Business Review.

An important contemplation on the emergence and nature of the power now held by the many acting together – as opposed to the old power held by the few. The Doclens bots tried and failed to effectively summarise this article so a manual summary has been produced. Bots 0 – Humans 1 for a change.

What Heimans and Timms have to say is important because it will give you a new framework or lens through which to evaluate analytic insights. It is worth reading the entire article.

Main Findings

  • Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.
  • New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. 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.
  • Old power models tend to require little more than consumption
  • New power taps into people’s growing capacity—and desire—to participate: sharing, shaping, funding, producing, and co-owning.

Top Quote

“Most organizations recognize that the nature of power is changing. But relatively few understand the keys to influence and impact in this new era. Companies see newly powerful entities using social media, so they layer on a bit of technology without changing their underlying models or values. They hire chief innovation officers who serve as “digital beards” for old power leaders. They “reach out” via Twitter. They host the occasional, awkwardly curated, lonely Google hangout with the CEO. ”

Top Infographics


The Participation Scale, page 1 of the article


The New Power Compass, page 5 of the article.

People Detected

  • Jeremy Heimans, cofounder and the CEO of Purpose, cofounder of GetUp and Avaaz
  • Henry Timms, executive director of 92nd Street Y, founder of #GivingTuesday
  • Scott Heiferman, the CEO of Meetup
  • Bertrand Russell, 19th century British philosopher
  • Fred Wilson, a partner at Union Square Ventures

 Companies Detected

  • Uber
  • TED
  • Airbnb
  • Apple
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Khan Academy
  • Google
  • The Guardian newspaper
  • The New York Times
  • Tea Party
  • Patagonia
  • Harvard Business Review
  • US Congress

The full 9 page article is available on request from the thought leader’s website here.


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