Our world is changing faster than the latest smartphone cycle. The time before the digital connection feels strange and distant; in fact, we have been living in a giant soup of algorithm, content, and data for only a few years.
In our new world, bound up is the hazy concept of power and even that is changing.
Hierarchical old power turns into more democratized, accessible forms of new power thanks to the technology. This is changing how the world behaves and also how we behave.
You need to know the functions of new power to succeed in that time. You will need new tools to influence people, new systems to build crowds and new values to lead with.
The following sections show you how to use some basic power rules and how to develop them while shedding light on all of them.
In the past, we had limited access to power, but today’s digital connectivity has strengthened us all.
Society was imagined as a giant machine and people were cogs and playing small and standardized roles in this machine before the twenty-first century.
Colossal corporations and sprawling bureaucracies lived in their golden age which is a time when companies gained power as though it were currency. They believed that they knew what was best for people and made decisions for those participating in their power systems. Such an attitude characterized old power.
Meanwhile, the static and stereotypical roles in the system were filled by the participants who obeyed the system’s commands: Do your multiplication tables. Say your prayers. Buy this product.
Shortly, there was little chance to participate in any civil, political or economic role.
But times have changed.
Hyper-connected technology becomes a battering ram by unlocking digital doors and lowering the barriers of participating in almost any given activity. And our behavior is changed by the increase of the horizontality of power distribution.
For instance, organization and participation logistics are no longer limited by time or space. This enables artists from Ireland and India to work together in real time and for free.
In addition, we now have the tools to meet people who think similar, lobby for change and organize resistance.
Also, our attitudes change. We need to participate to be able to feel satisfaction rather than observation or agreement.
This new attitude is embodied by Letitia Browne-James. A lifetime epileptic, Browne-James had it all with her neurologist and the ineffective medication she was prescribing. She later came across PatientsLikeMe, an online community of thousands of patients who shared their experiences, recommendations, and personal medical data.
She discovered that an effective treatment for epilepsy is brain surgery thanks to the platform. Positive results of brain surgery are reported by 83 percent of PatientsLikeMe users. This option was never offered and discussed with her, so she changed her physicians.
Eventually, it’s been five years since she had the surgery and had a seizure. Browne-James used new power by using PatientsLikeMe to take control of her health care.
Different value systems shape old power and new power.
So, what exactly distinguishes the underlying values of the new power and those underlying the old power? It’s like the conflict between a parent’s and child’s worldviews. An authoritative parent, experienced, is always disturbed when the fresh-faced and full of idealism children try to influence their parenting process. The child proposes new rules by trying to change habits or question received wisdom.
And the values of old power and new power clash in multiple ways.
For a start, their style of governing has a conflict. While old power prefers formal and centralized government like business decisions come from the boardroom, new power prefers an informal, networked government which business decisions depend on employees.
Also, competitiveness is seen as the jewel of human interaction in old power; however, cooperation and collaboration are encouraged in new power. Sharing of resources, the spreading of ideas and the remixing of the original work are rewarded in new power systems.
Their attitudes toward communication are different, too.
Old power tends to separate the public and private spheres of society. Things depend on a strict need-to-know basis. This was illustrated by Hillary Clinton perfectly by resembling politics to sausage-making: The process is unpleasant so the public does not need to know about the technique but they can enjoy the end product. The idea of the fact that transparent politics would be less effective was supported by Clinton.
This view is rejected by new power because it prefers open, transparent dealings. Items that are often thought to be private, such as a company’s salary data, are quickly incorporated into the right to know.
However, a new power isn’t only changing value systems; it is also changing roles of people.
Think about the traditional ‘’passive’’ consumer who is asked only buy or use a product. This role is in danger and its predator is the ‘’maker’’ – consumer who consume and produce. If we consider YouTube bloggers or citizen journalists, we see that they can be a creature that previously only well-funded elites could produce thanks to accessible technologies.
And that’s not all. We see that long-term commitment is shifting to temporary affiliation. Shortly, how people behave and associate with brands are changing.
The number of people who carry membership cards declines and the decline show this. Blockbuster video store members have ended their days. Now, the norm is drifting between online groups and using social media to temporarily associate with brands. We are driven by impulses choose and refuse to choose later.
Different models shape old and new power.
When you imagine your house, you probably don’t need imaginative effort too much while visualizing the foundations supporting it up. Well, this is the same with power systems; we do not think the models they rest on. We pay attention to their values.
So, what makes old and new power different from each other?
Firstly, power is more distributed in new-power models. Think about Occupy, the protest movement fighting with inequality.
This system is a crowd organization and it uses new-power models and values. For instance, radical transparency, equality, and a meaningful role are valid for all participants. However, a highly distributed model is used to share power, resist institutionalization and support local decision-making in subgroups.
But this can increase issues. For example, it is difficult to reach any consensus or implement major organizational changes with the model of Occupy’s distributed power-sharing.
On the contrary, old-power models are built like a pyramid. An interesting example of this model is Apple.
Apple is an organization which holds old-power models and values. Although it’s a cutting-edge technology company, the centralization of power and dictating o decisions make it old-power model’s company. Also, Apple is secretive and dislikes brand collaborations which prove its old-power values.
However, there is no need to choose one power system or another. Organizations often combine the models and values of both new and old power.
Patagonia is a cheerleader which means that there are old-power models with new-power values. Products are produced with little external input, an old-power model, but collaborate with consumers by asking them to support the company in the fight against climate change. Also, Patagonia is very transparent about things like the supply chain.
Organizations that adopt the old values of power and new models of power are co-workers. The best example is Facebook. The company has established a social network based on a new-power model with peer-to-peer networking and interconnected infrastructure, but this does not mean that it has new-power values. In fact, Facebook has a one-sided relationship with its users. It avoids major changes in their ecosystem and accumulates their personal data.
Yesterday’s influencers made ideas stick; today’s make them spread.
The question of how you communicate with your audience is as old as business itself. Influencers and advertisers seek techniques to implant their ideas into people’s heads, but influencer techniques didn’t change for years.
That’s partly because our main cultural influences were shared before digital communication.
There were a few newspapers and TV channels before entering the niche into online communities or private media. There were a large number of masses that forced advertisers to create messages with broad appeal. In this environment, strong messages, like Nike’s “Just Do It”, were sticky and catchy.
The SUCCESS acronym showed the way to design sticky messages.
Chip and Dan Heath introduce this in their bestseller Made to Stick. They suggested that sticky ideas exhibited SUCCESS (changed to SUCCESS for stickiness) – Simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories.
For instance, while sticky ideas tell us a story that takes us on a kind of journey, they must also be concrete by creating a mental picture within us. Also, they should be reliable with statistics and expert opinions.
However, the goal isn’t just to make things stick anymore. Ideas spread by adding ACE, which stands for actionable, connection and extensible, to SUCCESS thanks to the new power.
Ideas should be actionable to spread. This relates to declining passive consumption. People want to participate. Because of the actionable quality, Facebook’s ‘’share’’ button seems effective.
Secondly, spreading relies on the power of the connection. To dissipate properly, ideas should benefit from the powerful online networking tools of our era. Thanks to connectivity, ideas spread like a ripple in the lake.
Finally, ideas that spread are extensible which means they use the creative power of a community, allowing participants to change and reorganize the idea while maintaining the basic structure. The magic behind the spreading of memes is extensibility.
You might remember the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was an online sensation to find a donation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and used the ACE skillfully. Basically, challenge participants poured down a bucket of iced water before publishing an online video, asking their friends to “take up the challenge”.
The Ice Bucket Challenge required you to actually dump the icy water on yourself so it was actionable. The social networks of participants were utilized which means it was connected. It was also extensible because of encouraging creativity. For instance, Pete Frates, baseball player, posted his challenge with Vanilla Ice’s ‘’Ice Ice Baby’’ playing in the background.
Creating a crowd with a new power includes five key steps.
If new power is protected by companies such as Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb, what does it do? The truth is new power can’t be accumulated. Everyone can benefit from the potential of the new power for his/her own ends, but you must build a crowd first.
There are five steps: Find, build, lower, move and harness.
First, find your connected connectors: sharing your organization’s vision and values, influential and connected people.
An example of finding and nurturing connected connectors is Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. These connectors include online activists who create content and connection via online message boards, form a passionate base of offline support for Trump.
Then, you should build a brand that objectifies new power.
Take Airbnb. In 2014, although the company was good, it had lost its sense of sincerity and began to look like any other company. To deal with this, Airbnb has re-launched its brand with a renewed logo designed to be remixed. Airbnb’s logo can be edited according to the individuals’ profile, style, and needs.
The next two steps lower and move are not effective alone.
In our world of shortening the areas of attention, reducing the barriers of participation is essential. Users want frictionless, painless participation. Tinder, the dating app, shows how these barriers can be reduced in any scenario: The days of courage for asking your crush out for dinner left behind. You can arrange a date with just a few swipes of your thumb!
Once users join, you must upgrade them to the participation scale. Think of it as a consumer loyalty spectrum. Old-power actions are at the bottom like adapting or consuming. By raising the scale, consumers become more involved in terms of content sharing, affiliating or remixing. Finally, we see that activities will only participate in a small number at the top: Funding, producing and shaping the whole community.
A crowd will increase incrementally and your efforts in building a crowd will progress slowly but steadily. However, this isn’t the case. You should be ready to changing conditions because a crowd sometimes will form in a ‘’storm’’ of engagement.
Consider the Australian activist network GetUp. A storm of engagement was created when former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who opposed refugee rights, gave surf lessons for a public auction. The auction was hijacked successfully by GetUp for a young Afghan refugee, Riz Wakil. This creative prank provided continued participation in the GetUp community.
Platform owners, participants, and super-participants are key actors for a new-power community.
The world is based on compromise, they say. An acceptable situation for you is often unacceptable to others, and today’s critical business moments depend on your ability to balance the desires of essential stakeholders.
There are three stakeholders all in a triangular-shaped dynamic in a new-power community.
The platform owners who have infrastructures like IP addresses and servers are in the top of the triangle and set the general rules. Consider Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and his companies are the platform owners.
The most important actors of the community are platform owners. However, how does Facebook look without billions of users?
These users, the normal users or participants taking part in the new-power organization, are in the second corner of our triangle. Its economic value comes from them mostly. The popular content aggregator Reddit’s users read and vote on new content.
Super participants, as they heard, play very active roles in the community. Return to the participation scale. There are super-participants lived happily in the upper echelons of the spectrum by funding, organizing, and producing new content for the platform to give it unique cultural value.
YouTube is especially famous for its super-participants. The platform’s disability is low, so it is easy for regular participants to be super participants with their efforts and abilities. Take Mexican beauty vlogger Yuya: At just sixteen, she won a YouTube-sponsored makeup contest that inspired her to create her own channel. Today, it’s the 35th most popular YouTube channel!
So, we know the key actors of a new-power community – but why the triangle?
It is very important that a new power community balances the interests of every key actor, and they can often have conflict.
For example, YouTube’s Partner Program nurtures its super-participants by sharing 55 percent of their video’s advertising revenue with its content creators. It’s a win-win for YouTube, satisfying super-participants and incentivizing new content.
If a platform wants to use its participants more, one way to show that they’re valuable is providing a recognition system in which they’re rated on their contributions. For instance, Reddit’s ‘’karma’’ system or eBay’s ‘’power-seller’’ program make users feel validated and respected.
Orbiting this key actor triangle includes a group of other actors.
The key actor triangle doesn’t float aimlessly in a vacuum devoid of context or environment like the sun. Instead, it’s orbited by secondary actors that influence the triangle’s dynamic and institution’s fate in general.
This means that maintaining a balanced triangle is not sufficient to create a successful new- power community. You should also develop a small community of other players and partners. These include corporate funders, the media, NGOs, celebrities or influencers, and the general public.
Think about the human organization, the Invisible Children, behind the Kony 2012 video.
Kony 2012 was the most viral video in the world which is a YouTube sensation pushing for the capture of the Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony. However, Invisible Children was criticized because of uneducated activism. Its website crashed and financial structure questioned.
The organization had a perfectly aligned triangle before that. Super-participants were trained, local organizers were not authorized and participants who shared their content were supported. Unfortunately, Kony 2012 bypassed this model to seek rapid international fame. Particularly, Invisible Children couldn’t cultivate outside influencers orbiting its triangle, like celebrities and academic critics. It became the black hole that has swallowed up Invisible Children’s reputation.
How do new-power organizations balance triangles and maintain a stable orbit? Through the participation premium.
Consider the old power models based on basic economic transactions like camera acquisition. Today, both a product or service and a higher purpose need to be offered by organizations to be truly successful. Participation premium is a combination of these.
It can be in a range of different contexts. Consider the ‘’IKEA effect’’, a term provided by the behavioral economists Michael Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely. It’s the idea that people who participate in a project or contribute to a goal give a higher value to the finished product than their target value. This effect is so named because the researchers observed issues valuing over the furniture they collect.
Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone brand, is known for its high participation premium. The manufacturers start a new version of their user interface by asking users to review it every single week. As a result, customers think they’re a valuable part of the development process and contribute to a higher purpose.
New-power requires signaling, structuring, and shaping which are new leadership traits.
In our new world, old power and new power are crashing. The leaders prefer three new leadership tools: Signaling, structuring, and shaping.
An example of new-power leader is Pope Francis who uses his unorthodox actions like washing a refugee’s feet to prove personal values to subordinates within his ultra-traditional organization. Desirable behaviors are showed to adherents with these actions.
Pope Francis is also an example of leadership by structuring. He tried to use his leadership as a process of restructuring with his reforms to the Vatican Bank. It decentralizes the power and rebuild power of church and flip the old-power pyramid where power flows from the top down, into an inverted pyramid, where power flows from the bottom up.
Also, do not look beyond the pope for shaping examples. The general direction of an organization is influenced by shaping which forms the beliefs and attitudes of your followers and subconsciously changing the game’s rules. During a flight from Brazil, a journalist asked Pope Francis, famously encapsulated the shaping leadership when for his perspectives on homosexuality. Simple answer: Who am I to judge?
Shaping is a subtle but active process of reform whereas structuring is a passive ‘’lead by example’’ tactic. This is the key difference between them.
However, combining both leadership styles may be the key to succeed in the transitory time because old-power leadership is far from dead.
Pablo Iglesias, who is dissatisfied with the domestic political climate and founder of Spain’s progressive political party Podemos, initiated the party in a TV show, an old-power tactic.
Although this might seem odd, Iglesias used the show to get a lot of broadcast time from traditional newsletters, where he gained a lot of charismatic speech skills. Initially, the focus was on his charming personality rather than on his new political movement. He seemed to be apparently an old power ‘’top-down’’ organization. But when Podemos became an official party, it emerged with a number of new power values.
For instance, horizontality and transparency were advocated in the manifesto of Podemos even though it put the entire party in a popular vote. Iglesias maintained his charismatic leadership, but revolutionary democratic methods like crowdsourcing policies began using in the party. Podemos which blend powerful, charismatic leaders with new-power values is a great example of a new power-old power leadership model.
New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World—and How to Make It Work for You by Jeremy Heimans, Henry Timms Book Review
Our era’s power dynamics are changed by digital connectivity. Old-power represents a centralized top-down hierarchy whereas a bottom-up new-power system supports decentralization, collaboration, and transparent execution. And now, new-power is replacing old-power. There are different models and values in these systems, but it is not simply a case of ‘’new power = good’’ and ‘’old power = bad’’. Both have merit and disadvantages. Although they can be combined, new power provides a fresh set of tools for building crowds, spreading ideas and leading organizations.