Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

Navigating the Exponential AI Curve: Insights from Sam Altman

In a recent conversation, Lex Fridman asked Sam Altman about OpenAI’s transformative product releases. Altman offered an intriguing perspective, noting that from the inside, OpenAI’s progress feels like a steady climb up an exponential AI curve. For those within the company, the roadmap is clear and smooth. However, from the outside, these releases appear as sudden, transformative leaps—fast and furious.

exponential ai curve

This discrepancy highlights a gap in storytelling. Better communication about the incremental steps towards a clear destination is essential. Storytelling can map out the kinks in the road, making the journey more comprehensible. OpenAI strategically times their product communications, likely for competitive reasons, and they are making numerous small to medium technological bets. These incremental advancements, when combined, aim to yield significant gains.

As we move into a future where compute power is the currency of AI, it’s crucial to chart your roadmap along the exponential AI curve based on the myriad of discrete vendor releases, aligned with your desired outcomes. And before you leave, also consider that the balance between biological intelligence (BI) and artificial intelligence (AI) continues to shift, with AI rapidly gaining ground. The exact endpoint of this shift remains unknown, but one certainty is that AI will take a bigger role. Whether that’s a leading or support role remains an open question.

Value preparation over generation

Currently, there is significant emphasis on using Generative AI (GenAI) to create more content. Beyond the well-documented legal, ethical, and governance risks associated with GenAI, prioritizing value preparation over generation serves as an overarching mitigation strategy for delivering future-ready outputs.

Being pragmatic and practical can be frustrating, and it may seem to constrain innovation during a period of massive, rapid technological disruption. However, having the right data to train your models to achieve optimal outputs is strategically your best next move. This isn’t merely a choice between low risk or high innovation, but rather a balance where considered risk can unlock innovation. You need a combination of both risk and innovation to make progress.

Value preparation over generation

Value Preparation over Generation

In the rush to generate, many are shortcutting preparation. This approach may yield short-term gains but fuels long-term pain. When decorating a room, for example, it’s about 95% preparation and 5% painting. Stripping back to the plaster, smoothing out cracks, sanding down the woodwork, and cleaning debris are time-consuming but necessary preparation tasks. The quality of the final coat depends heavily on the quality of these preparatory steps.

GenAI is no different. The various hoops you must jump through to prepare data for training are critical to ensuring the accuracy and quality of downstream generative outputs. It’s the small things that count. For instance, we discovered that when preparing assets to train a brand-specific custom model, centering the images within the digital asset was crucial. The more training images required, the more manual effort needed during the preparation phase. This quickly becomes a hurdle that automation can help overcome—and we are making strides in this area. However, this is just one of many tasks being added to a growing pipeline of preparation tasks.

In Summary

The importance of data preparation in training AI models is a burgeoning area of research. Invest time to take the long way around. Only then can you creatively, iteratively, and incrementally shorten the distance between your inputs and desired outputs.

Slow Productivity

Slow Productivity

I’ve always had a keen interest in productivity. Starting out with getting things done (GTD) and also plans, progress, and problems (PPP) reports. And then I just happened across Slow Productivity by Cal Newport.

Cal talks about pseudo-productivity that is basically a focus on busyness. I learnt from an early age that busy is failure to prioritze. Slow productivity is about how to focus and execute on the right things by following three simple principles:

  1. Do fewer things
  2. Work at your own pace
  3. Obsess over quality

The books gives many examples of key people that succeeded using slow productivity. From Isaac Newton to Alanis Morrisette (which I’m looking forward to seeing this August 2024).

If you’re an overworked knowledge worker it’s worth a read.


AI Agent Builders

Google recently unveiled Vertex AI Agent Builder. This new tool allows for the creation of AI assistants. Despite hopes for a zero-code approach, technology proficiency remains essential. And just like Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM who are targeting enterprise users, Google’s Vertex needs experienced technical users to micromanage AI from design through to deployment.

AI Agent Builder

At the other extreme, something like launch lemonade is an AI agent builder for the everyday user.  Good enough to get something up and running, monetizing AI agents from the get-go. However, not powerful enough yet to develop truly differentiated, enterprise grade, products. 

Then you have those platforms that live somewhere between these two extremes. Rasa specializes in creative conversational AI agents with a strong emphasis on natural language understanding. While DataRobot is a platform embraced by data super heavyweights to enable users to create deployable autonomous predicative models.  And then there is the platform of experts, or POE.  This platform creates AI agents capable of decision making and task execution. 

In short, it’s a mixed bag but the message is clear.  AI Agents are on the rise.  I’m waiting to see just how human friendly GPT5 AI Agents are.

The Prompt Recap

the prompt recap

Creating effective generative prompts is a skill you can master with practice (openai, claude, etc). Here’s an additional tip you should use to refine your technique for better results. I call it the prompt recap. So:

  1. Start a conversation: Prompting is not a one-off; it’s an interactive exchange. Begin by asking for what you need.
  2. Evaluate the response: Look at what the AI produces. Is it close to what you had in mind?
  3. Refine your request: Make adjustments based on the response. Sometimes it’s the small tweaks that bring big improvement until you have your desired output.
  4. Do the prompt recap: But don’t stop there. Once you have the desired result, ask the AI for a prompt recap: can you replay the prompt to generate this output? It will then produce an all-in-one prompt that gets you to your desired out.

The prompt recap shows you how the AI would construct the prompt. In doing so, it’s teaching you the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. And from this you gain insights into how to craft prompts that get straight to the desired outputs.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on!

Three Steps to Innovation

We all know innovation is important. But in uncertain economic times, innovation becomes urgent. Innovation is a differentiator tied to future growth and long-term value creation.  There is no faking it here.  You won’t get the results and will lose. But there are simple three steps to innovation you should know to help you make it.

I’m always listening out for the different ways people approach innovation and get results.  I subscribe to Inside the Strategy Room, a McKinsey podcast and stumbled across an episode on taking the fear out of innovation.  This post is an extension of that conversation. Let’s dig in.

What are the three steps to innovation?

Innovation is the practice of:

  1. Finding the right problem to solve 
  2. Identifying the right technology to solve that problem 
  3. Fitting the right business model to scale the solution

Re-look at those three steps to innovation.  They are connected. A subtle shift from problem to solution. Although enumerated in a linear fashion, innovation tends to cycle a few times around these steps to get there. 

What are the innovation outputs?

But don’t stop there. What about the outputs at every step of the way? Think about:

  1. Find the problem 
  2. Identify the solution
  3. Fit the business model

You need to be clear on all three of these outputs to deliver true innovation: problem, solution, and business model.  Each output should have standard format and vocabulary for expressing them for all participants in your innovation ecosystem. Simple to say, hard to execute.  

What are the innovation practices?

Lastly, let’s focus on the innovation practices. This is the hard part. The practices differentiates good from great innovations:

  1. Find the problem
  2. Identify the solution
  3. Fit the business model

How do you find problems, identify solutions, and fit them into business models that work .  This takes both experience and expertise doing innovation. Getting results and learning from them. Really doing the do, where practice makes progress.  Every person, team, company, brand, or organization, does this differently. Driven by culture, access to talent, and leadership. And this is where innovation happens.

Just be clear on where your strengths and weaknesses lie today.  Leverage strengths now and improve weaknesses over time. 

Why what we make matters

Before I leave, the presenters on the podcast said something else about innovation that resonated with me: 

  • We make originals so that we don’t go creatively bankrupt
  • We make sequels so that we don’t go commercially bankrupt

So we need to do both.  However like any industry, sequels/duplicates/reruns are common, some truly exceptional.  But originals are timeless classic.  Don’t be fooled. They are not the same.

Innovation is about improvement and tends to fall in the sequels category.  Innovation is about percentage gains. True originals are inventions.  They require different approaches that result in new business models, new technologies, and new problems to solve.  Inventions are moonshot gains. So when defining success with your teams, with your three steps to innovation, consider which parts above are relevant for you.

Into the metaverse

Following on from my last post, I decided to spend a little more creative time in the metaverse.  Basically, sidestepping all the cryptocurrency noise around the collapse of FTX.

So I read The Metaverse Handbook with a forward from Paris Hilton.  Short story short, the metaverse is gathering momentum, shifting mindsets, and becoming a movement for the masses. But it has a ways to go.  The executable strategy for many is very much sucking and seeing.

That said, you shouldn’t ignore what’s happening out there.  There are a lot of interesting areas to discover.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

From Web2 to Web3

We all know and understand Web2 platforms; Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, and Facebook. They provided a high level of social engagement with consumers and their platforms captured all the value.  Web3 shifts value creation from corporates to communities so that we the consumers stand to benefit.  And so the Web3 alternatives to Web2 incumbents have started:

Of course, these are not as well-known or widespread.  They are experimental with an emerging Web3 marketplace.  So this week I decided to try one out.  I chose Mirror.  A Web3 publishing platform.  

What did I learn?

 After connecting my crypto wallet to Mirror, I was up and running.  My crypto wallet was needed for identification rather than payments.  Mirror is super simple and I was able to draft my first post within seconds.  It’s no WordPress but is both practical and pragmatic.  Refreshingly simple.

The next step is my understanding of the minting process on a decentralized web publishing platform. Wish me luck.

Board Service

One of my personal goals this year was to learn more about board service. Corporations are changing. Governments are relying on and regulating companies more and more each day. As such, the role of a director is complex, yet critical for corporate success. It’s a tough gig.

I’ve spent a large part of my career in management. Specifically designing, developing, and deploying technology solutions that deliver better business outcomes. I continue to have a blast at that.

However, you cannot manage in a vacuum. The adoption of technology into the business requires increasing awareness of the economic, market, geopolitical, regulatory, and digital transformative changes corporations are going through. All within the midst of a pandemic, diversity and inclusive needs, and a purpose-driven agenda for a more sustainable planet for everyone. It is literally all change.

So why board service?

Shareholders elect directors to oversee management. Directors are ultimately accountable for steering the ship. I firmly believe that a great board of directors builds great corporations. And corporations are moving faster and more decisively than governments to deliver the environmental and societal outcomes the human race needs to survive. The role of the director is critical in this ever-changing complex business environment. By the same token, bad directors can result in bad companies. The actions of the few can be devastating to the many, both inside and outside.

NACD Accelerate

I’m a curious fellow. A pragmatic academic. So I decided to go back to school and get certified as a director. I’ve been a board member of private companies that I’d owned in the past, and on various board advisories for big tech companies. However, I needed to know the full breadth of what it means to be a director across all types of companies. Specifically, ones where I was not a majority shareholder.

So, I found NACD Online, or the National Association of Certified Directors. NACD raises the bar for board service. It equips you for directorship in ways I didn’t imagine. You learn very quickly the director’s philosophy of ‘nose in, fingers out’ thinking. Moreover, you get an instant community of like-minded people on similar but unique journeys. And finally, you get access to so many useful and useable resources.

Last week I passed the exam. I’m a certified director with NACD. It was challenging but rewarding.

Next Steps

Consolidate what I’ve learned. Share with others. Keep dreaming. Direct more. The search begins…

Black Leadership

I’m black. Born in England and live in Seattle, Washington.  I turned fifty in 2021.  I’ve three careers – so far – an academic (5 years), a software architect (6 years), and currently a chief technology officer (16 years).  For the last twenty years I’ve head leadership positions where I created and/or part owned those companies I worked within.  Now, given the renewed racial tension and events taking place across America, and building a family, I’ve been asking myself what it means to be a black leader today.

Black Leadership Academy

Enter McKinsey who run a Black Leadership Academy program.  I was fortunate to get a place on it in November 2020 through work. And so, six months I’ve graduated and got my badge. But short story short; it was life changing. 

How so?  After speaking with a few of female colleagues attending women only events, like them, these environments are a welcome space to share and care with peers. Less interruptions, no mansplaining. Similarly, the everyday biases and barriers invisible to the majority, yet ever present to the minority, gone! Instead, we were free to openly discuss key leadership topics around networking, managing personal energy levels, psychological trust, the power of storytelling, and the rising importance of non-executive board directorships.  The focus was resolutely on the work. But don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of occasions of group therapy, bonding, and camaraderie. It that was fun. This added to the sense of freedom we strive to feel within a less diverse environments, or put another way, the world we live in today. 

Back to the work

I graduated from the McKinsey Black Leadership Execution Program – BELP – and made many new friends.  The storytelling session was off the charts, equipping the attendees with essential communication tools.  The importance of networking was brought forward and the need to continuously grow and nurture your personal board of directors focussed on you.  Common sense and extremely powerful when applied in the right way.  

The sessions were human. Highly engaging, and deeply personal at times.  The content is proprietary to McKinsey and private.  Unfortunately, I cannot share it with you.  However, I would highly recommend you sign up for the program.  As I said, life changing!

From Cash Wallets to Digital Wallets

Digital wallets are on the rise.  In year COVID – 2020 – digital wallets surpassed cash as the number one payment at all point-of-sales globally.  That’s a big deal. But what are you and I using now instead of cash?

Cash was King

I’ve got a baby on the way. So my wife and I are changing things up at home.  We’re buying and selling furniture. Nesting if you will.  My wife posted a sofa on Facebook Marketplaces for $3000 and Brian said he wanted it.  

Brian> Cleve, do you mind if I come over at 10:30 am to take a look 

Cleve> Sure, no problem Brian

Brian> Awesome, I’ll see you then!

11:30am and Brian rocks up at all flustered and wet.  It’s raining.  Wife and U-haul in tow.  

Brian> Had an absolute nightmare withdrawing $1,500 from a Bank of America ATM

Cleve> How come?

Brian> Typically, we don’t withdraw this amount of cash.  Fraud checks and all.  Took me an hour on the phone to get the cash.  But here it is.

This was literally my first cash transaction since moving to America back in October 2019.  I was happy for Brian but confused as to why he was using cash. I said nothing.  My wife and I showed them our sofa and they agreed to buy it.  

Brian> Right, the downpayment.  Please count it, I’ll feel better that you do.

Brian stuffed the dollars into my hands and asked me to count them. I did as instructed.

Cleve> Okay, all good!

Brian> Super, where’s the nearest ATM so I can get the remaining cash.

Towards digital wallets

I pointed Brian towards the nearest ATM five minutes up the road, and they were gone!  45 minutes later and still no sign of Brian.  In the meantime, we sold another sofa, paid using Venmo (a digital wallet), the buyers had collected and gone.  Okay, Brian’s back!

Brian> That was a nightmare. We couldn’t get any more cash out.  We’re at the limit for today.

Cleve> Yeah, it doesn’t matter what ATM you go to, the limit is the limit!

Brian> However Cleve, I can use Zelle.  It’s a digital wallet I never knew I had on my phone.

Cleve: Interesting. Zelle works for me.  Do you want my cell number?

Brian> Yeah, that’s it, all you need to give me is your cell number.

So Brian and I stand side by side – we didn’t need to do this but did – and in 60 seconds we’re done.  

Brian> I had no idea I had a digital wallet, literally on me all the time.  Why would anyone go to an ATM?

Why indeed?

The Cashless Future

So going forwards Brian will double down on his new digital wallet.  For me, I have the added challenge of going into the bank branch to deposit Brian’s first cash payment of $1,500.   Today, cash is hard to work with.  However, as more and more people with mobiles unlock their digital wallets, increase the number of transactions through them, the future of banking will truly become decentralized. 

Imagine that. Imagine.  That!

About Cleve Gibbon

Hey, I’m Cleve and I love technology. A former academic that moved into fintech to build trading platforms for investment banks. 20 years ago I switched to marketing and advertising. I joined a content technology spin-off from the Publicis network that was bought by WPP in 2014. I'm now at Omnicom. These pages chronicle a few of things I've learnt along the way…

My out-of-date cv tells you my past, linked in shares my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently up to.