Henry Timms and “New Power”

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a lunch to hear a talk by author, Executive Director of the 92nd Street Y and founder of #GivingTuesday Henry Timms. His December 2014 article in the Harvard Business Review had been shared with me beforehand, and truly I had every intention of reading it thoroughly before the event. But since I am more likely to read Politico or People than the Harvard Business Review, I ended up cramming and trying to read the whole article during my Uber ride downtown. Thank goodness it didn’t matter, and Henry Timms presented on the concept of “new power” for a few minutes as we 40 or so mid career DC -types looked on agog. At least I was anyway. Mr. Timms has a way of making sense of the new paradigms and construct of power, media, commerce, politics, marketing, and advertising that I found very exciting. The idea that “new power” is not centralized or controlled by old style powerful organizations as it was in the early part of my career is daunting, but it explains so much.

Mr. Timms put the group through an exercise of plotting organizations on the matrix of old and new power, and seeing where employers and people with whom we interact daily fall on the spectrum was enlightening. Millennials have a very different mindset about transparency, governance and power, that to understand “new power” is a very large picture window into their mindset.

I think of some of my own efforts to present ideas, proposals or advocacy issues in some fresh new light, to create some “organic” movement around an idea – they have mostly failed. But in Mr. Timms words “it’s not a movement unless it moves by itself.” That is when an idea is most powerful and emblematic of “new power”- when its no longer under the control of its originator. That’s the intent.

I commend his original article to you.


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