I Asked AI to Create a Plan for a Fake Company — The Results Blew Me Away, But Not in the Way You Might Think With all the hype around AI, I decided to conduct an experiment of my own with ChatGPT. Here's what I learned.
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With all of the recent news about artificial intelligence (AI), it got me thinking about the potential impact of AI on strategic planning — my area of expertise. So I did a little experiment: I went to ChatGPT and asked it to craft a strategic plan for a fictitious organization.
The plan that was created — in 15 seconds — was actually pretty good. I was blown away, but I also realized there are problems that will crop up in the process AI will just never be able to solve.
Since then, my team and I have been actively thinking of ways that we can leverage AI to help us make strategic planning even simpler and more effective for our clients. Below are some of what we consider to be the opportunities and challenges of AI in the realm of strategic planning.
Opportunities of AI in strategic planning
- Efficiency: AI can automate routine tasks, handle large data sets swiftly, and provide instantaneous access to a broad knowledge base. I see this as being useful in requesting information and receiving answers quickly to questions you may have regarding your strategic plan, finding ways to succinctly phrase complex ideas or draft communications to stakeholders.
- Data analysis: AI's superior data analysis capabilities can uncover trends, patterns and insights from large datasets which might be overlooked by human analysts. This can help when reviewing transcripts of interviews or focus groups to find common themes and truly unique ideas. But be careful — you have to understand how the answer is arrived at.
- Idea generation: AI can use its extensive training data to generate a wide array of ideas and solutions, potentially sparking novel strategic insights. If you're struggling with a challenge in your strategy, you might be able to find creative solutions through AI. Prompt ChatGPT or any Large Language Model with your situation and see what comes out of it. The action steps it lays out could become part of your strategic plan.
- Scenario planning: AI can suggest a range of possible future situations based on trends and patterns, helping organizations prepare for various potential scenarios. While none of us know the future, this opportunity can help you manage risk by reviewing various scenarios that may arise. You can share your situation or your entire plan and then ask "What possible situations or scenarios could arise that might cause challenges for us in completing our goals?" or "What are some assumptions that we might not realize?" in order to uncover potential risks.
However, alongside these exciting opportunities, it's equally crucial to understand the limitations and challenges posed by AI in strategic planning.
Challenges in AI-aided strategic planning
- Contextual understanding: While AI can process and generate responses based on patterns, it currently lacks a deep understanding of the context that humans naturally possess. This can sometimes lead to responses that miss certain nuances. Every customer with whom I have worked in my 25+ years as a strategic planning consultant has had a challenge that is specific to their organization and the unique personalities in the organization. It has required me and the leaders of the team to get creative with developing a plan to overcome an obstacle in a way AI would be limited. When dealing with complex situations, nuance in understanding and action is critical.
- Lack of buy-in: While using AI can make the creation of your plan more efficient, if you don't engage your team along the way then you lose out on one of the major benefits that strategic planning brings: buy-in and commitment. A phrase that I learned long ago is that "people support that which they create." If AI creates your plan, then your team won't have nearly the same level of ownership or passion for the plan as they would if they had tussled with it themselves. Further, that lack of buy-in will hurt your team's ability to execute the plan since they may feel that they're being told to do something rather than creating it themselves.
- Ethical considerations: AI lacks an understanding of ethics and can't make moral judgments. As such, humans need to ensure ethical considerations are taken into account in the planning. AI often attempts to achieve "objectives" regardless of the implications of the approach. However, thankfully, most humans pause before taking any action and run it through a set of ethical, moral and social considerations before taking any action. You don't have to search far to find stories of AI making "ethically questionable" decisions. Be aware of this while you explore.
- Data privacy: Using AI tools can potentially expose sensitive company information. It's crucial to use trusted and secure AI systems and always proof the content (ideally more than once and by multiple people) before disseminating it. Sharing sensitive information with AI tools can then "leak" into its training data and allow that sensitive information to be used or shared in unexpected ways. Be aware of the privacy policies and data governance procedures in place with any tool you use, especially an AI system.
In addition to these opportunities and challenges, there are many other considerations when looking at AI tools to augment strategists and leaders that need further exploration: costs of AI training and implementation, embedded bias in AI, regulatory compliance and perhaps most importantly, how people will react to incorporating AI into our work lives.
The key takeaway here is that while AI can offer significant enhancements to the strategic planning process, it should be seen as a tool to accompany human capabilities, not replace them. The unique value of human intuition, experience and ethical judgment remains paramount.
As we move into this new era of strategic planning, it's important that we navigate this space with both anticipation for the opportunities and respect for the challenges. Used wisely, AI tools can become powerful allies in our quest to make strategic planning more effective, simple and insightful.
I'm excited to see where all of this goes and potentially be at the forefront of figuring out how best to integrate AI into strategic planning.