Our hyper-connected world can often feel chaotic as we’re always switched on – but when you’re checking your phone, do you realise the power you have in your hands?
The world has changed a lot in the 50 years I’ve been in business, and power has definitely shifted. Technology has advanced and our behaviour is changing too. It affects us all in many different ways, but I’m very optimistic that the power shift can help create a stronger society for us all. It can amplify movements and help drive positive change.
This shift is discussed by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms in their book New Power. It’s a useful lens to use when thinking about how business has changed, how to spread ideas or start a movement, or create change.
They see “old power” as something that works like a currency and is held by a 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.
They say “new power” operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it. Many of the big new success stories such as AirBnb or Blockchain are participatory business models.
I was especially intrigued by their ideas around how leadership is changing in a new power world. It got me thinking about Holly’s role at Virgin, where she is part of a team tasked with driving forward our strategy of business is a force for good.
I’ve just spent time with Holly in the US as she toured her new book WEconomy, which she has written along with Marc and Craig Kielburger. WEconomy is a collection of stories and learnings around the importance of embedding purpose at the core of business. I have always believed that it shouldn’t be a choice between doing business to make profit or doing business with purpose; the two can and should go hand-in-hand. I think WEconomy is a great example of how Holly has harnessed new power tools and thinking, and rallied us all to ensure that we create a collaborative economy that benefits us all.
Henry and Jeremy have put together a quiz which can help you work out where you stand right now on the power shift - and helps you think through where you might want to end up. Give it a go and let us know what you think.