[Originally written for The Guardian Media Network.]

Guardian Media Network

If media is interesting because it facilitates communication, whether that communication is mediated or disintermediated, then communication is most interesting when it facilitates influence.

You have been influenced when you think something you wouldn't otherwise have thought, or do something you wouldn't otherwise have done. Simple as, although you wouldn't think it now that influence is the hot word.

The capacity to change hearts, minds and deeds is considered the mark of the great communicator, the compelling personality, the charismatic politician, and ultimately no one wants to communicate without influence; that wouldn't be a good use of the communicator's time and energy, or indeed that of those on the receiving end.

The focus on making sure you're influenced back is vital too. Individuals (and organisations) that best absorb the zeitgeist are heuristically more able to respond in ways their audiences (stakeholders) might well appreciate.

Influence is complex, and I mean that in the full "complexity science" sense of the word. Complexity is the phenomena that emerge from a collection of interacting objects. The interacting objects could be molecules of air and the phenomenon the weather. It could be vehicles and the phenomenon the traffic. Read more