THE BLOG

The Power of the Crowd

07/06/2013 16:58 BST | Updated 07/08/2013 10:12 BST

The anti-government protests in Turkey have made one thing clear: Erdogan, the Prime Minister, is not listening to his focus group. As any business owner knows, the thing about focus groups is that you don't always get to choose them. And with new media, you certainly don't get to choose who rates and criticises you in the public sphere. The lesson politicians must learn from Turkey is that they are no longer immune from the rolling news of public opinion. And what starts on Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram will soon spill onto the streets.

The power of digital media is to make every voice heard, and heard directly. Not in the slow motion of representative democracy currently on offer in major western democracies, with an election every four or five years. Indirect is out - digital platforms mean people demand to be heard every day of every week, and will not accept the proxy of governments as they are currently constituted.

The historic social contract, based on deference and models of collective exchange, has been stood on its head by new media, and the rise of peer-to-peer interacton. People will no longer accept being the cog of wider society; instead we demand to be the individuals. A new social contract of collective action through individual empowerment has been formed. That is what I have had the chance to see at first hand in Turkey over the last week, inIstanbul for the Dell Women's Entrepreneur network.

These anti-government protests have been the new, digitally-empowered society in action. The Erdogan government believes it has delivered on its social contract, ushering in consistent growth over three elections spanning a decade. As it is discovering to its cost, the classic placebos are no longer working - and the historic balance between government and popular representation is being challenged - on the streets, by the people.

The events in Istanbul highlight that a new, very powerful form of direct democracy is waiting in the wings. Representation will no longer mean politicians getting into office and shutting the door. That door is being broken down, and it is the politicians who welcome in new opinions that will ultimately succeed, not those who try to build a new barricade. Political leaders must see government as an ongoing campaign, establishing connections, and constantly renewing their popular mandate.

Erdogan, by contrast, showed that he wants to remain a leader without followers, deciding to fly to North Africa with his country erupting in protests. Turning your back on your electorate while it is flexing its muscles is both a strategic error, and a perhaps fatal sign of arrogance.

The way people across the world see politics is changing - the average 20-year-old is both socially and politically active, but doesn't identify with the traditional party political offerings. As digital natives, they see change as it is happening, and are frustrated by the inability of governments to implement this on an institutional level.

This is the entrepreneurial mindset, which has revolutionised business, at work in society more broadly, changing expectations of government and how citizens interact with their elected leaders. Not everyone will be an entrepreneur. However, we will all play a role in shaping societies in an increasing entrepreneurial mould. The world of Kickstarter and Kiva where people contribute their own funding to solve social problems is coming soon to your local community.

The individual is on the rise. No longer are strong individuals thought of as narcissistic, selfish, greedy. They are seen as capable of creating positive change for society. The web enables us to choose what we consume more easily than ever. Labour and Conservative, Democrat and Republican, will give way to empowerment through causes, campaigns, and beliefs. The early adopters of 'new government' or 'government in the Internet age' are on the streets of Istanbul as well as taking their GCSEs in London. But early adopters spread to the majority and before you know it, you have a revolution on your hands.

Government is being redefined. Leaders emerge when history taps them on the shoulder. Witness Mandela, Thatcher, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Pope John Paul II. The next Prime Minister of Turkey and Britain, or President of the USA, are not only listening to their focus groups right now, they are building them. They must have a systematic way of listening daily to what the people want. Otherwise the people will find someone who will.

Julie Meyer is founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital and author of Welcome to Entrepreneur Country