Generative AI for the C-Suite
Boards must help their companies capitalize on the benefits offered by artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence is seeping into every part of our lives, and interest and investment into this technology continues to surge. Though we are most familiar with its application for personal use (think Siri, maps and navigation, chatbots, e-payments, etc.), what is less discussed are AI’s wide-ranging applications for businesses, specifically boardrooms.
Whether directors want to improve or maintain clear communications with shareholders and senior management, explore new audiences and territories for growth acceleration or understand warning signs and possible risk based on past events, boards can capitalize on AI benefits. Something as simple as extracting data from historical occurrences and communications can enhance a board's decision-making process for key meetings or negotiations.
From the mail room to the C-suite, every level of an organization can benefit from AI.
What is Generative AI?
Possibly the most important technological advancement since the search engine, generative AI is a type of AI system that is configured to learn what is behind the questions humans ask. Trained on large language models, generative AI has practical application across a broad range of industries and sectors with new use cases emerging daily.
The most widely used systems generate text or images in response to user prompts, but there are subtle differences between the applications that might make one a more ideal/attractive tool depending on the information you are trying to extract.
AI in the Boardroom
AI has the potential to augment or even transform human work, making it more efficient and effective. However, it is not a replacement for human intelligence but rather a powerful tool to enhance governance decision-making processes, risk management, strategic communications and governance.
Whether the task at hand is evaluating potential targets in an M&A process or improving the quality of data used to manage and mitigate risk, the proliferation of AI demands industry leaders get up to speed quickly. If configured properly and used correctly, AI can equip your board with information it has not seen before, allowing directors to take swift action to protect the company reputation and market share.
But knowing how and when to use AI is the key to unlocking added value. As boards acquaint themselves with generative AI tools, they should be asking themselves, “What can AI do for us?” For starters, AI can help boards:
- Gather information that mitigates risk.
- Prepare crisis communications material based on real feedback.
- Explore new markets and audiences.
- Improve key communications among all parties in the organization.
- Allow counsel from some of the world’s smartest minds.
- Connect with contacts in a more meaningful way.
- Save time spent compiling company communications.
- Learn about the new ways customers are using their products.
- Delight the people they communicate with daily by delivering moments of surprise and wonder.
AI is a tool for getting counsel or advice from the word’s smartest minds, alive or dead. What would be the value of sage advice and insight, in a moment's notice, from the minds of folks that are not at your table? Enter AI. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Phil Knight and Bob Iger are, or were, some of the greatest CEOs of all time. The power of AI and tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT3 allows you to describe a persona or authoritative figure from whom you’d like some advice.
Let’s say you are struggling with waning consumer interest in your laptop brand and recent products. With AI, you can get Steve Jobs’ perspective and advice. AI can tell you what Jobs would have to say about user experience (UX). Jobs can advise you on driving brand love for consumer products, and what he feels is Apple's greatest weakness —which can be exploited by the competition for strategic positioning. Of course, Jobs is not around, and we know this isn’t “Jobs” himself, but the fact that these tools are all trained on historical data that exists means what AI Jobs has to say is not that far off from what real Jobs would have to say. At the very least, the data will be aligned in spirit and perspective.
- Sample prompt. I would like you to respond to my following questions as Steve Jobs — the former Apple CEO.
- Follow-up prompt. I have a laptop that directly competes with the latest Apple MacBook lineup. Although we best the MacBook lineup products on performance and affordability, our brand is rarely considered and is not top of mind for consumers looking for a performance-driven laptop. How can we build consumer love for our laptop product?
AI is a tool for communications preparedness. The use of AI allows leaders to get an initial read of market reactions to corporate activity and news. Take the news of an inadvertent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the likely public outcry. AI will flag the prominent themes that current consumers might take issue with so that leadership might quickly provide relevant information in the right tone. The use of AI in communications preparedness gives leaders and decision-makers the ability to quickly understand macro issues and respond appropriately and swiftly.
- Sample prompt. My company is publicly traded and suffered a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. The spill will continue to spew oil over the next 48 hours and there have been casualties at the incident site. Tell me which stakeholder audiences we need to prioritize. Tell me in detail what aspects of the crisis will be of most concern to these audience groups. Share a selection of individualized messages for each stakeholder group based on their most pressing needs.
AI is a tool for developing internal intelligence. One of the great use cases of AI is being able to synthesize an abundance of data down to key points and takeaways, making analysis no longer time- or talent-intensive. AI can be used to get a quick understanding of a new trend, technology or production process in preparation for an impromptu meeting with stakeholders, for example. AI can provide insight into historical market prices for new materials, explain an emerging global consumer trend or present you with the critical weaknesses of a new technology that is being recommended.
- Sample prompt. What are the three leading data-fabric solutions providers in the world, and can you explain to me the unique disadvantages of using each of them?
AI is a tool for benchmarking. ChatGPT can be used in many ways for competitive intelligence, including diagnostic benchmarking. First and foremost, large language model AI platforms like ChatGPT are great at summarizing and identifying the most important information in a large array of data. Boards can use these tools to upload competitors’ information and have the AI sort through it to find comparative data points to their own data, many that might have gone unnoticed by human eyes, such as qualitative KPIs.
AI can also help with automated reporting of these benchmarks versus having analysts pulled away from pressing client projects. Anytime the board wants a view of the competitive landscape, these prompts can be run to pull in all necessary data and give a summary. This automation makes it easier for boards to also pivot a team's strategy in real time without extra work for analysts.
Moving forward, boards can do forecasting or scenario planning. Imagine asking the AI what would happen if suddenly competitors dropped pricing or sentiment for a new product skyrocketed, and the tools could predict the changes to KPIs.
AI as a tool for financial intelligence. Bloomberg just announced the launch of BloombergGPT, which has the potential to elevate the use and relevance of generative AI in the C-suite by improving existing financial natural language processing tasks, like sentiment analysis or news classification. This, in effect, created the most powerful financial analysis tool.
The system will be built using domain-specific datasets that are not publicly available but are instead created from 40 years of data that Bloomberg owns, in addition to public data. It also makes grabbing data from Bloomberg easier and faster — giving those in the C-suite accelerated financial analysis and data points. It can take natural language requests and process them through Bloomberg's native language/syntax to get the data points needed without having to use that syntax directly — or ask someone else to get it for you.
AI is a tool that can help you work your contacts. One of the hardest tasks for any executive, or the one at least that can be the most memory-tasking, is keeping up with all of your contacts. What if your AI assistant could ingest all the inbound information about every contact you have and feed you relevant data as you needed it? Headed to a business conference? Imagine a ChatGPT extension with your calendar and email that prompts you to bring up key points related to that contact. An AI assistant could help with anything from remembering that your former client had a kid headed off to college to a powerful business insight into a new SEC investigation impacting their biggest competitor.
AI is a tool for developing new content. Through the use of AI, emergent narrative themes that take shape in both conventional and social media can richly inform board decision-making. For example, your product, intended to be used one way, is now creatively being used in another clever way by your customers. AI provides information and intelligence that allows for more informed decision-making.
AI is a tool that can create timely and relevant subject matter memos. Leaders are constantly looking for ways to impart wisdom to their teams, as it relates to the work they are engaged in. AI can help craft the perfect pithy memo to your team derived from a long article your team may not have the time to read. Enter AI again. AI can quickly craft an image of an idea that you have, saving resources and time for all.
AI is a tool that can create bios and summaries quickly. Company bios and work summaries needed for biographies and work press opportunities, proposals and conferences can be quickly crafted for an easy (human) edit. AI will help you craft the perfect deliverable. Just input character length, audience description and other salient information, and you’ve got a base of content that can be edited to fit the project. As AI progresses, large keynote decks and company proposals can be summarized and customized, depending on the audience for which it is intended.
It is important to remember that using AI in your business and communications strategy does not mean replacing humans altogether. Some jobs will shift and disappear while others will emerge. Data collection and content syntheses require a data team that can read beyond the numbers and provide insights and actionable advice.
Jeff MacDonald is creative technologist and director of social media of Mekanism.
Suran Ravi is director, intelligence and insights, of Citizen Relations.