So you think you can write?

I’ve talked on a few occasions about communication, and as much of what I do is now strategically oriented, I’d like to explore what the advent of AI content generation is doing to things like human-written blogs. How to do that? I’m going to ask myself a question and answer it based on my own thoughts and then engage ChatGPT4 to see how it would answer. Here’s my question: “How important is history to the development of a strategy?”

Human (my) answer: I often say of history with regards to strategy, “history is interesting, but it doesn’t control the future.” Now that’s a pretty loaded statement! Don’t worry, I’ll briefly explain. Strategy, as I’ve said, is not planning. It is the process of ideating potential next actions based on a present state. That is, strategy takes inputs (history) and with purposeful intent, suggests a course of action (the plan) which spans doing nothing different through pivots through radical change. What has happened before that input is interesting, and informs the ongoing strategy, but does not control it. Let’s take chess (always a fine strategy example). Late in a game, losing key piece to an opponent will drive a change in strategy. The plan insists we know what pieces are left with which to play – what options there are. Strategy doesn’t care. Strategy is why we’re going to do what we’re going to do. Regret over what led to the loss of the piece, anger over a mistake, annoyance at one’s opponent – irrelevant. The situation is now what it is. Otherwise, emotion becomes the control mechanism; and emotion is enemy of good strategy. Bottom line: Why did we lose the piece? Useful. That the piece is gone? Relevant to the plan, informing of the strategy.

Now the ChatGPT answer:

History plays a crucial role in the development of a strategy. Understanding the past is essential for making informed decisions and formulating effective strategies for the future. Here are several reasons why history is important in strategic development:

  1. Lessons from the past: History provides valuable lessons and insights into how individuals, organizations, and societies have dealt with similar challenges and opportunities in the past. By studying historical events, successes, failures, and patterns, strategists can learn from the experiences of others, identify effective approaches, and avoid repeating past mistakes.
  2. Context and trends: Historical knowledge provides a broader context for understanding the present and predicting future trends. By examining historical events and trends, strategists can identify patterns, cycles, and recurring themes that may impact their strategic decisions. This historical context allows for a more comprehensive analysis of current circumstances and the ability to make informed predictions about potential outcomes.
  3. Benchmarking and best practices: Historical data and case studies offer benchmarks and best practices that can guide strategic decision-making. By studying successful strategies and their outcomes in similar contexts, strategists can adopt proven methods, adapt them to their own situation, and improve the chances of success. This knowledge allows for a more efficient allocation of resources and reduces the risk of trial-and-error approaches.
  4. Understanding human behavior: History provides insights into human behavior, motivations, and decision-making processes. By examining how individuals and groups have acted in different historical contexts, strategists can gain a deeper understanding of human psychology, biases, and the factors that influence behavior. This understanding is crucial for developing strategies that take into account the needs, desires, and actions of relevant stakeholders.
  5. Anticipating challenges and disruptions: History can serve as a guide for anticipating and managing potential challenges and disruptions. By studying historical events and their impact on strategies, organizations can identify vulnerabilities, assess risks, and develop contingency plans. This proactive approach enables strategists to mitigate potential threats and respond effectively when unexpected events occur.
  6. Shaping organizational identity: History contributes to the development of an organization’s identity and culture. By understanding their own historical trajectory, organizations can identify their strengths, weaknesses, and core values. This self-awareness allows them to align their strategies with their purpose, build on past successes, and learn from past failures, ultimately enhancing their long-term sustainability and competitive advantage.

In summary, history provides valuable insights, lessons, and context that are vital for the development of effective strategies. By drawing on historical knowledge, strategists can make informed decisions, anticipate challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and increase the likelihood of achieving their goals.

The interesting thing is I like both answers, and I think that is the value of AI! Different approaches to topics, especially those with ambiguity and a range of perspectives is only helpful. One could ignore the generative answer, or one could use the collective knowledge to improve upon the original thought – which I was tempted to do, but purposefully do not given this exercise. What do you think? Are the machines out to take our jobs, or just make us better at doing them?

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