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AI in Strategic Planning: Opportunities, Challenges and Embracing Human Insight

Photo of Ricky Chilcott Ricky Chilcott

Amid all the talk about artificial intelligence (AI), I tried an experiment, asking ChatGPT to create a strategic plan for a made-up nonprofit. The result, generated in just 15 seconds, impressed me. Try it yourself using this prompt:

Please write an engaging and formal (start year)-(end year) strategic plan for (organization name), a nonprofit with (number of staff) staff members and an annual budget of (annual budget).

Each goal statement should be specific, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Each goal should suggest two measures.

Each goal should suggest several action items.

Mission Statement: (Enter mission statement)

Vision Statement: (Enter vision statement)

Values: (Enter list of key values)

Programs: (Enter brief summary of programs)

Partners: (Enter brief summary of partners)

The results are generally pretty impressive, but it makes you realize that while having a plan matters, there are many challenges that AI will never solve completely. Here’s what I see as the good parts and the challenges of using AI in strategic planning.

Good Parts of AI in Strategic Planning

1. Efficiency

AI can do routine tasks, handle lots of data quickly, and give instant access to a ton of information. This can be handy for getting quick answers for your strategic plan, expressing complex ideas and drafting messages to stakeholders.

2. Data Analysis

AI is great at analyzing data, finding trends and uncovering insights that humans might miss. It can be useful when going through interviews or focus group transcripts to find common themes and unique ideas. Just be cautious about understanding how AI comes up with its answers and make sure it answers the question you asked.

3. Idea Generation

AI, with its extensive training, can come up with a bunch of ideas and solutions. If you’re stuck on a strategic challenge, asking AI for help might lead to creative solutions that become part of your plan. But also remember that it’s not extremely creative. It can’t know what it doesn’t know.

4. Scenario Planning

AI can suggest different future situations based on trends, helping organizations prepare for various scenarios. While we can’t predict the future, this can help manage risk by considering different challenges that might come up.

Challenges in AI-aided Strategic Planning

1. Lack of Team Involvement

While AI can make planning more efficient, it doesn’t include your team. If members of your team aren’t involved, they won’t be committed to the plan. Team engagement is crucial for successful execution.

2. Contextual Understanding

AI is good with patterns but lacks the deep understanding of context that humans have. In complex situations, AI might miss certain details that are crucial for understanding and action.

3. Ethical Considerations

AI doesn’t understand ethics and can’t make moral judgments. Humans need to make sure ethical considerations are part of the planning process to avoid potentially questionable decisions.

4. Data Privacy

Using AI could expose sensitive company information. It’s important to use trusted AI systems, thoroughly check content and be aware of privacy policies to prevent unintended exposure of sensitive information.

5. Behavior Change

At the end of the day, successful strategy often requires a shift in behavior and mindset in the organization around strategic planning processes. The people on your team need to believe in the process instead of a one-time plan that doesn’t get viewed. AI is a tool that can help provide information, but ultimately your team needs to implement a strategy cycle that will lead to greater impact.

Besides these, there are other things to consider, like the cost of AI, bias in AI, the need to follow regulations and how people will react to AI in our work lives. This topic is so vast that each one of these could be its own separate article.

The main idea is that AI should be a tool alongside human abilities, not a replacement. Human intuition, experience and ethical judgment are still crucial.

As we step into this new era of strategic planning, we need to be excited about the possibilities and respectful of the challenges. If used wisely, AI can be a great help, making strategic planning more effective and insightful for you and your organization.

This post was originally written and appeared on Nonprofit Pro.

Meet the author

Ricky Chilcott

Ricky Chilcott

Co-Founder, Software Developer

(844) 677-7526 ext 701

As a passionate co-founder of Mission Met, a strategic planning company in Athens, Ohio, I combine my expertise in software development, business strategy, and project management to support non-profits globally. While my personal journey started with an almost decade long career in higher education, I'm so glad I'm in the social good sector.

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