Cultivating the Digital Art of Continuous Influence!

A Digital Influence Guide for Artificial Intelligence

Sean W Smith
Dec 2 · 14 min read
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

There’s an interest, a motivation, and an awareness in all of us; that simple but innate driving consciousness to think ahead, notice the patterns, and ultimately do something about it! Why is this so hard at work? Why can’t we all just drive forward, run at it, get in the left lane? And not just once, but over and over again in support of constant correction. For all of you excited and motivated about doing this, pushing technical integration to the limits, looking for guidance along the way, this is for you! I can’t wait to hear your stories.


You know this frustration.

Some honest and genuine sympathy on what is without a doubt, a bit of insanity; communicating the same message over and over in supportive fragments instead of a complete dissertation. “Did I provide the right vision, do they understand it from that message? There’s so much more, …and we’re out of time.” For me, It has been somewhat like that childhood lesson of once, twice, not a third time. As in, see a cookie fresh from the oven, reach for one, get hand smacked. Reach again the second time and get hand smacked. Try something different and ask politely to have one, get a cookie. Let's just say that I’ve had my fair share of partial reaches. It’s about time I stopped and tried something different and went through it end to end.

What about you, do you communicate well? Are you able to push your message and get your point across? For a moment, assuming you are and even if you’re not, let's agree you’re a communication rockstar and together reflect back on that simple childhood game of telephone, standing at the start of a line with some, seemingly at that point, critical information to tell. That initial critical message, told over and over again, only to be redrafted by each individual child in the line. The ending message, what you, as the initial creator, expect to be your perfectly communicated message has now morphed into something far different than what you passed on.

We often forget that we have this challenge as individuals, organizations, and even society in general. With the countless works of literature and resulting libraries of information, we still can’t piece together in an accurate context, all of the transcription of information that has happened over time. Even now, with all that historical data and today’s endless compute power, we still have not masted the translation of ancient dialects and early documentation. To this day, we’re constantly challenged with a shortage of information. Our storyline lost because of that ever so elusive.

Looking back to get ahead?

When we consider looking ahead into the future and making predictions, even just one prediction; much of our input and quite frankly all of our input, is our understanding of where we came from, and to a larger extent, if it will repeat again. Even larger of concern, the questions that we ask looking forward often involve data points that we did not collect in the past! As we creep forward with data gathering, yes we are creeping, not due to our capacity problems but much more due to the timelines involved (you can’t change time), there's still a tremendous lack of information and healthy skepticism to determining our direction with these extensive questions. Furthermore and bringing this back to everyday decisions, be it personal or business, we struggle with having ample information to support our desired foresight. As funny as it sounds we may always have this problem. Each and every detail (data point) we identify with may drive us towards another detail. It may be as simple as an additional data point or as extensive as a collection of data points, an extended analysis of those data points, or even a competing prediction from a different vantage point.

If you’ve considered this before, or even just now, you’ll most likely agree that it's difficult to commit to something as your awareness grows. As your information grows so will your confirmation and/or lack of confidence. If you haven’t before, please ask. yourself now, “just how much information do you need to feel confident?”

Regardless, with this very healthy skepticism and more importantly to rid you and me of this partial story insanity, I have desired for quite some time now to culminate a series of materials that support the act of driving digital influence and the steps required to enhance organizational transformation. Rather said, the proper alignment and integration of technologically enhanced solutions to support continuous alignment and well, your desired influence.

What’s this digital guide series?

Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash

This Digital Influence Guide for AI-series (digAI) should be considered a collection of noticeable patterns and their descriptive association from discussions, implementations, notes, reminders, and best practices for the individual(s) driving transformational efforts. It’s very much a resource for extending knowledge, gaining a different perspective, highlighting the unforeseen or rather unexposed vision, and ultimately a source to reinforce and motivate you! Each topic can be read on its own and/or in the proper sequence for extended insight.

I venture to develop this as a digital guide for several reasons;

  • For one, to know what’s ahead.
    Our path forward is one that is beginning to bridge independent machines (what I would call true AI) and human integrations which requires highly tuned processes and the corresponding technical alignment.
  • For another, to remember its worth the effort!
    There’s a large mismatch of effort .vs. reward when undertaking. extensive tasks of ‘blunt force’ initiatives. In large organizations, individual efforts are not easily recognized by the organization and in line with that, highly successful and impactful team members get burned out and demotivated.
  • For less of a reason but very much required, to temper expectations!
    We are not in a position to fully control the momentum around us, and as such, we need to ensure our teams keep focused on the things we can control and spread our energy across the extended opportunity. Its less of a reason because you should always be driving forward!
  • Last but not least, For the reminder you have support!
    Even if it's as simple as a confirmation of your progressive thinking.
  • And well, there’s actually one more thing, that's now a requirement.
    Yes, its already required; the development, growth, and/or recruitment of one or more team members responsible for the overall organizational momentum as it pertains to digital influence. This is a good opportunity to get HR started on generating position and recruiting someone to be your CIA or Chief Influence Architect or even to start small and identify your organization's first Influence Architect.

That being said, as a reader of this material, you are most likely one of, if not a colleague of, those individuals. You function or rather seek to function to the extent you can, as a transformational catalyst inside the organization, and/or even better yet, in your own next-generation startup company. Driving forward against the grain. It can be just as easy to get fatigued if not burned out in a simple task of a startup company as it is with a long term ‘organizational transformation’ effort. In these broader reaching organizational transformational efforts, success is achieved when you have either converted the majority ruling (in so much as our effort becomes standard practice) and/or you have engaged an individual with authority and motivation now to make the decision and implement change (an executive champion, political leader, investor). Success in your organization with an outcome that in no way reflects the effort put forth.

It is for this reason that you, a key insight & influence champion seeking change and progression, need a better roadmap and strategy on how to continuously drive forward, align as best they can for the environment, and ultimately cultivate successful modifications. This behavior, you’re genuine excitement and passion, should be front and center at any organization. We are at a time of renewed environmental adaptation; to an environment, we have digitized. It won’t be long before our digitization will be something we interact with more than that of the natural world. Quite frankly, “we’re their man”. So it is with great excitement and encouragement that we support the need to technically adapt to our environment. How often have you seen the words “Machine Learning” or “Artificial Intelligence” or even “AI” recently? For those of you who don’t fee the need, ask the executives at some of these companies;

  • Blockbuster Video
  • Sam Goodie Stores
  • Radio Shack

Better yet, check in with the growth and expansion of General Electric. Growing up in a region that was heavily built by the massive expansion of General Electric, I can honestly tell you I’m shocked to be writing material and including GE as an organization that’s just not in alignment anymore (they are trying to re-align). It's truly remarkable how core industry standards have been disrupted by a reimagined business process with integrated technology.

Who is this guidance for?

Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

As a key focus, this content is in support of the individual or individuals who are to any extent driving the embedment of technological solutions. It is my hope that more of us will help take on a focus of fostering and accelerating advanced organizational change. Its time to holistically and inclusively step aside and look at the organization, set up and/or refine plans, and drive forward. It is now a requirement to continuously focus on driving change as a standard business practice in support of adaptation and environmental alignment.

Industry analysts firm Gartner has recently picked up on the ‘rogue researcher’ in all of us and identified these individuals as “Citizen Data Scientists.” Also known as the excel guru’s who crunch numbers and want advanced predictive and prescriptive insights. If you identify with this title or wish to identify with it, these materials should help provide you a keen focus but will be centered around the influence as opposed to the statistical models and/or code. It is my hope to provide comfort for those who want to transform themselves into a new job in the AI / ML / Analytics. It is also my hope to provide methods for any truly hardened and deeply valuable executive who simply needs a step away from years of successful patterns and is open to a deeper alignment in the future environment.

Reflecting back on years of customer-facing presentations, there was one that really stood out. I was invited to present at an Ignite U NY session on Advanced Analytics. Wanting to “up my game” and really hit my target pitch since this was a home town for me, I originally settled upon the title and catchphrase “operationalizing actionable intelligence.” What I experienced even before presenting my first session on this exact topic was of immediate concern. Waiting patiently at the side of a very large ballroom, the first speaker on our panel finished and answered some questions. The host then reassumed control and gave a brief introduction to the next speaker and topic; my overview of “Operationalizing Actionable Intelligence”. It was during his introduction, as he described my presentation, I realized he either couldn’t comfortably pronounce the title or didn’t care to read it and so provided his own title. My anticipation vanished, my head shook a bit, and I considered for a moment that I was in no way connecting to an audience with a subject line that couldn’t be easily pronounced. I should have known, it took me weeks to roll that off my tongue on demand.

A handoff of the clip-on the microphone provided an extra second to quickly rethink my introduction. “Operationalizing Actionable Intelligence,” I said and paused. “If you can’t say it now, it’s ok, it took me three weeks to be able to list it off on demand.” This simple adjustment to the discussion prompted so much more. I continued by informing the audience; “much like the title, this is new, this is hard, it takes lots of time, and. while the vision is completely about an end state, the current tasks at hand are not even close to it.”

Thankfully, my presentation was well received and I had a lot of questions to answer. Each, an inquiry on a segment of the overall story, of which I have never been able to provide end to end with an audience. There’s simply too much to tell in a limited timeframe that supports a captive audience. Thus, focusing on the end state, the “sales pitch” of that vision way off in the future, provided an appropriate presentation segment. A short view into the art of the possible, of things to come, and everything works perfect utopia ahead. “Yes that's correct, everything’s going to be amazing!” These are inspiring sessions.

Following the session and to this day, I still question if it’s enough just to provide the end state. Working directly in AI and ML, I still feel a loss for the lack of time I have to dive in and understand an organization in order to cultivate change, be there to point out the path forward, and see the successes and what's to come.

Does the match ever really get to enjoy the fire?

I’m undoubtedly excited for you and can’t wait to hear your story but still question; Is it enough to provide a vision with a simple roadmap and initial example that seeks for the audience to take the next step? Do dieters get a 60-minute crash course and immediately cook the perfect food, exercise like a pro, and drop pounds a day? Not quite, its much more of a marathon than a short sprint. With that in mind, I’ve come to observe and witness first hand in a variety of situations and an array of depth that transformation requires a contextual reference to the “end state” with a “tactical” and continuously evolving strategy to drive the necessary change.

What this is…

This discourse is a culmination of methods, models, and experiences that support the thinking and motivation of individuals driving and managing transformation change.

  • This is intended as a journey, with a variety of examples, through the process of transformation change.
  • A reference much like a “cookbook” with recipes and standard ingredients but without exact measurements.

What this is not…

I believe it's even more important to point out what this is not designed or intended for.

  • This is not an exact roadmap nor any form of Digital GPS.
  • This is not a dictionary
  • It falls well short of new theory, at least the unwritten ones
  • and well, it may not be so ‘comforting’ or ‘exact’ in nature

What to consider…

As this provides details and support for readers of all levels, including both those enabling the business side and those enabling the technical side of today's organizations, it may be beneficial for some to move ahead to later segments and dive into the transformational models to immediately start driving and/or support driving change. I would welcome and support it as it suits the need along with encouraging, as time permits and situation demands, circling back to earlier content. Know that herein I present to you materials intended to be read end to end, so as to build a framework of context for you, the reader, as you drive forward. As a time-strapped individual myself, I fully support those with limited time and requiring some good insight into a particular segment.

What’s to come…

Photo by Tabea Damm on Unsplash

Within digAI.01 - The Art of Digital Influence, you’ll be introduced to this well-advertised buzz word concept in a much different way. With that, you’ll learn how to continuously measure your organization's maturity, understand what it takes to move forward and as you proceed, how to keep pace along the way. You should consider this you’re last day of being ‘done’ with anything and your first day of ‘continuous refinement’ of everything.

Having the proper understanding and path, digAI.02 - The Journey Ahead, begins to focus on navigating the distance between digital code and human actions. With the desire to minimize such a large gap, you’ll gain a mental framework for quickly navigating the waters in-between. It's important to understand that properly identifying and recognizing the gap can be the biggest challenge.

Compass in hand and navigation path set, we’ll want to understand some detail about the variety of landscapes along the way and how to absorb, itemize, and translate and craft a solution. Therefore digAI.03 - Negotiating The Thin Wide Line focuses on those core concepts and best practices for dealing with the highly segmented demand that can come from truly embedded solutions.

A successful visionary needs help! Rather said, they need a motivated, educated, and well-organized crew. How do we get everyone with highly specific needs and agendas to move forward together, at least with some sense of semblance? Cultivating this effort can be nothing short of metamorphosis and digAI.04 - Cultivating a Metamorphosis will not only provide you a guide but also some distinct paths that can be adopted.

As we work towards our goals of codifying influence in behavior, it's important our solutions align appropriately to the path of motion so as to not drive to a dead-end, do things that don't matter, or even hurt us. There’s really no backing up in this ride. digAI.05 - Designing for Behavior highlights the need for a different philosophy in the context of data-driven experiences so as to enhance yet not detract from the original motion set forth.

The stage set, cast ready, lights, camera, and continuous action? digAI.06 - Onward to Continuous Influence, Implementing code to influence behavior is not in any way, a performance. It sits alongside, and its awareness and resulting influence never end. Imagine a row of dominos standing in line, short or long, vision these dominos as individual events happening that you wish to influence the outcome. Better yet, stand up millions of these dominos around a football field in line to fall. Think of these as your organization, and all the tasks you need to do.

Are you ready to push the first one and get started?

Photo by Marco Lermer on Unsplash

Great! Here’s the best part; you should know ahead of time that none of the dominos on the table are in your control. You are not allowed to touch them and regardless of what you do, they are going to fall in sequence as they are setup. When they do fall, you’ll see the flow, you’ll monitor the course and path and speed. Sounds like real life? All these things happening around you. Things you want to happen, things you don’t want to happen, and things you want to influence to happen in a better way.

Well, the good news for you my friend is like the wind. You can gust against the flow and you can gust with the flow. You may even be able to gust in just the right direction so as to change the alignment of dominos and get them to fall off course, preventing any of the sequential dominos from falling. But that will take time and a lot of influence. Hence, you should be tactical in each and every transformation gust you put forth.

Welcome to accelerating your digital influence journey!

Towards AI

Towards AI, is the world’s fastest-growing AI community for learning, programming, building and implementing AI.

Sean W Smith

Written by

Formalizing the Digital Art of Continuous Influence and Influence Architecture

Towards AI

Towards AI, is the world’s fastest-growing AI community for learning, programming, building and implementing AI.

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