New Power: What, How, When and Where

10 ideas from New Power By Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms

Key Takeaways:

To invoke action you can either command and authorize (old power) or invite and collaborate (new power).

Neither is good or bad, just different. They are tools and should be used as such.

New power demands accessibility to information, meaningful participation, and transparency. The opposite of old power.

When new power is exercised well it has huge potential due to shared ownership and is largely involved in the new age of the internet focusing on communities.

To do it well, your call to others must be actionable, sharable, and extensible. You start to achieve new power relationships when people start to share your ideas/products/intent and adopt the cause.

Also, new power is much cheaper, as it is crowd led. You would lack complete control over what you start as others extend it, but strong messages can persist, pressure can build and new power can defeat Goliaths.

In this summary:

  • Examples
  • How to spot new power
  • How to exercise new power
  • When you should use it
  • When systems is it best used

The book is here on Amazon:

Examples of David beating Goliath.


GetUp and do politics?

How do two twenty-year-olds kick their Prime Minister out of office?

GetUp was a tool for Australians to easily email their representatives for causes in two clicks.

Ministers condemned them as spam, which gave GetUp a crowd — focused on improving politics through uncoordinated events across the country. It led to a condemning defeat where the prime minister lost his own seat.

Now GetUp is a community of people for campaigning that is open, self-organizing, and collaborating.

Real quote but fabricated as a tweet for illustration

A ‘holiday’

Aqsa Mahood used “new power” to influence rather than command people to join her in this great adventure in the sun. She didn’t command people to come, nor did she try to sell you tickets to it. Instead, she told you about her experiences and was open and easy to talk to. She was basically an influencer.

Many others, including the government, shouted ‘Think Again’ but it did not dissuade some of those who knew/interacted with her.

But she was not a new digital nomad working on an island, or at some summer camp. She had joined ISIS.

She was using the power of participation and collaboration to make others join her terrorism group by being relateable by encouraging, sharing, and inviting participation.

New power is neither good nor bad. It is a tool.


The National Rifle Association is a large group with a budget of $250 million, but in many ways are the David in this analogy.

“92% of Americans favour background checks for all gun buys” and regularly the NRA faces lobbying against them. Yet they still manage to revoke reform, for now.

They do this by exercising “new power.” Small grants to thousands of gun clubs, shooting ranges, conservationists, and hunting organizations “create a web of grassroots activity”. It also gives discounts on insurance, loans, and clubs for children and adults throughout their lives and families. The NRA has a loud supportive crowd behind them because the NRA allows them to participate.

The freedom the crowd desires is supported by the NRA so any attack on the NRA is an attack on freedom.

David beats Goliath not through a stone, but through attracting a community.

There are times where David misses.

Boaty McBoatface

Natural Environment Research Council’s original request for names

In March 2016, the first 24 hours of the competition lead to parliamentary inquiry after a £200m research vessel was set to be named Boaty McBoatface (by a huge margin of votes). Outraged MPs saw that taxpayers' money, grants, and donations would be trivialized.

This campaign had been viewed by over 250 million people in a few days. Imagine if the NERC had doubled down.

“..imagine a generation of Brits following Boaty’s adventures by GPS, schoolkids greeting Boaty when she docked in their town. You could imaing T-shirts, mugs, avatars, video games, cartoons. Boaty might have become the most participatory vessel in the world…”

The NERC wanted some participation, but only if it aligned to what they would consider normal. This essentially means they were not prepared for others to participate.

They were too late to realise what they had — later naming one of the instruments onboard Boaty McBoatface but to a dramatically different level of excitement and hence press.

How are the two ways of thinking different?

Neither is inherently good or bad but are useful tools in different circumstances.

How do you spot the two types:

Source: The book's website:

How New Power is happens

With the advent of TV and radio, a new ability to reach a huge number of people was created, and culture became shared.

With the advent of new media, this shattered. But the messaging didn’t completely change immediately. We are now seeing that things are made to share, not ‘made to stick’. Be it information or actions. Participation is being more and more encouraged, overconsumption.


The authors point out, “things meant to be shared” tend to have certain qualities: Actionable, Connected, Extensible.

They focus on the ALS Ice bucket challenge as being a perfect example. Actionable — you are nominated, and easily understand what to do
Connected — everyone could join in — friends, celebs, and you
Extensible — you can put your spin on it and be creative

The future will be won by those who can spread their ideas better, faster, and more durably. In a world of fake news, climate change deniers, and all manner of extremists, the stakes are high… In fact, those darker forces often start at an advantage because their provocations compel our attenion and our clicks.

Implications on work

New power highlights the strength in participating with your own spin on things. That can go in the face of typical “old-school” work, which is increasing the desires of some people to have “founder-like” experiences. This means they want:

  • To actually build things — to say “I did that”
  • To actually own — and hence make decisions and be accountable
  • To have transparency — to avoid siloed information and be able to understand everything that is happening
  • To have variation of work
  • To have more flexibility — but this does blur the work/life boundary

This does also mean though the ‘job-for-life’ idea is falling. To replace it Reid Hoffman suggests that employees join an alliance; “short and clearly defined tours of duty that last two to four years” and the intent is to be mutually beneficial such that Reid often asks “What’s the next job that you would like to have post-LinkedIn?”.

Here is the alliance Reid defines.[pdf]

To take a step further from alliances steps up the gig economy, where work is not only not temporary, it is transactional. “…up to 40% of the US workforce can now be considered as contingent…”!! In this world, management is programmatic — reviews, behaviours, skills.

Case Study: Buurtzorg

A Netherlands health care company that says, “how do you manage professionals? You don’t”. Instead, only 15 people support the 850 teams, and this support is purely mentorship and coaching by experienced nurses. There are no managers, just help.

This strongly reminds me of the dandelion company structure discussed here:

How to get participation

New Power revolves around people participating, but to do that you need a crowd, and a crowd will build a larger crowd.

Find people aligned with you

The authors suggest three different high charged events — or storms:

  1. Create your own storm — start your own movement
  2. Chase storms — spot rising tensions and jump on them, immediately interacting with them.
  3. Embrace storms — if there is a storm at your door, double down on why you are right and trust you will be rewarded

…those who are most rewarded will often be those who stand out: the loudest, the funniest, the most provocative, the most daring.

Then help them level up participating

The authors point to moving early supports through a participation scale.


We should be familiar with complying or consuming, but then:

  • Sharing something they have consumed, recommending it to others.
  • affiliating, endorsing not the content but the community by joining it.
  • adopting is being active in seeing others and putting their spin on it.
  • funding — believing in it such that they are supporting it with money.
  • producing — being active in creating content for others to share and remix.
  • shaping — which focuses on looking at building and supporting the community

Companies that do this well are Reddit (with subreddit volunteer monitors shaping communities) and TED (from listening, attending, and organizing TEDx events).

If you manage to get the participation you create this structure

The platform — defining what participants can do, but not what they do.

The Super-participants — the energy and value drivers for the participants, but who also will want more abilities on the platform. Think Uber drivers, Wikipedia editors, and Reddit mods.

The participants — the consumers and sharers.

If you are managing this, you must balance the needs of all carefully for the community to persist.

Comparing Uber and Lyft, Uber focused on participants heavily, at the expense of their super participant drivers. Uber, with poor contact, driver HR resources, and communications, is the opposite of Lyft’s community groups, driver focus, and encouragement for all employees to be drivers for the service.

Don’t undervalue participation

As humans, we crave to join communities, be known, and be active. Once you either purchased products/services or gave money to charity. More and more, these are blurring.

People can pay for access to support and join communities, and get value from simply doing that.

Star Citizen is an endless universe game that was funded through community crowdsourced funds. Despite the game being continuously delayed, many donators continued to donate as “I had already got my money's worth” from the content on how Star Citizen was being built and the community that sprang from it which they were a part of.

It is similar to the “build-a-bear” effect, where you value what you have created more.

When should you use new power?

If you answer no to the below, you should not exercise New Power.

Do you need crowds and do they want you?

The Boaty competition did not know. Maybe they wanted engagement or innovative ideas, but there was no strong challenge or benefit for the crowd. Note: prize money is not a reason, but to channel grief at government would be (think about GetUp from earlier).

Do the crowd view you as legitimate or like you?

If there is no relationship, at best you will be ignored, at worst you will be mocked. This is the difference between Doritos's famous crowd-sourced ads and GM’s awful attempt.

Will you accept the results?

If you will not, you will go the same way as Boaty.

Do you realise that new power engagements cannot be fleeting?

Consistent trust and value to your community/crowd is the only way that others will be engaged. You cannot use this fleetingly.

Which system is best for…


Should education be shaped by the crowd or be consistent from government?

If by the crowd, it may be applied differently so it is personalized and innovative. But opinion and bias will be taught, and irregularity in teaching will restrict some; both of which shouldn’t occur in an autocratic system.

Working together

Should you compete or collaborate to get better results?

Do league tables and battles spur innovation and results, better than collaboration? Would you collaborate with others that may outperform you with your help?


Should all information be public?

If you are doing nothing wrong there is nothing to hide, but what about privacy? Should everyone know the salaries of everyone else?

Joining groups

Should new members be able to define groups just like long-standing members?

If you have never been to church before but attend a service, should you be the one to read from the bible? The House for All Sinners and Saints think they should.

Creating things

Should everyone have the opportunity to be able to make anything?

Should people be able to make their own brand of shoes? How about their own cancer therapy?

Ultimately, there is a balance where both new power and old power need to be combined.

When combined, they can address having a just society, but this is inherently a grey area and people will disagree on reach and boundaries.


The feeling I get from the authors is that you need to be able to work in both. It is fine to prefer one, but neither is a silver bullet. The authors leave it up to capitalism and society to determine the best route, which will almost certainly be mixed, but the boundaries are open to change.

There are countless other illustrations of new power, as well as examples of innovative ideas where it grew huge support which I cannot summarise in a post. I would fully recommend reading the book:

Founder of and Product Owner @ dunnhumby; just genuinely interested in a lot of things. Built racecars, built electronics, now building software

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store