Old Power, New Power, and the Changing World

In the December issue of the Harvard Business Review, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms break down power in this period of disruption.  They write that we are moving through a very complicated period, "one driven by a growing tension between two distinct forces: old power and new power."

Power, as British philosopher Bertrand Russell defined it, is simply “the ability to produce intended effects.” Old power and new power produce these effects differently. New power models are enabled by peer coordination and the agency of the crowd—without participation, they are just empty vessels. Old power is enabled by what people or organizations own, know, or control that nobody else does—once old power models lose that, they lose their advantage.

Old power models tend to require little more than consumption. A magazine asks readers to renew their subscriptions, a manufacturer asks customers to buy its shoes. But new power taps into people’s growing capacity—and desire—to participate in ways that go beyond consumption. These behaviors, laid out in the exhibit “The Participation Scale,” include sharing (taking other people’s content and sharing it with audiences), shaping (remixing or adapting existing content or assets with a new message or flavor), funding (endorsing with money), producing (creating content or delivering products and services within a peer community such as YouTube, Etsy, or Airbnb), and co-owning (as seen in models like Wikipedia and open source software).

Read the full article here.