How C-Suite executives can level up their productivity with ChatGPT (and when to avoid it)

How C-Suite executives can level up their productivity with ChatGPT (and when to avoid it)

The advent of Generative AI technologies (the umbrella term for tools like ChatGPT) represents a watershed moment for businesses. This leap in technology genuinely has the potential to be as disruptive as the adoption of computers.

This may feel like a bold statement, especially to those who have witnessed relatively clumsy explorations of the technology. Look past those, however, and the sheer potential for disruption becomes far clearer.

When harnessed properly, this technology can result in a sizeable productivity boost for everyone, and especially so for senior leaders. We explore five ways busy executives can harness ChatGPT to become more efficient. We will also cover a few caveats to bear in mind and situations where you definitely should steer clear of ChatGPT (at least for now).

Before we delve into how to use ChatGPT (which you can access at https://chat.openai.com), it may be helpful to share an analogy for what it actually is. Imagine ChatGPT is the newest intern hired by your organisation. They have a lot of knowledge, they are keen to support, but they are still relatively inexperienced. They may have knowledge, but they still lack insight or wisdom. ChatGPT is that intern, but at a much greater scale. It knows literally everything that has ever been published publicly online, but it will often fall short when required to extract insight or wisdom from what it knows. It simply cannot do the strategic work for you, but it can be a powerful assistant nonetheless.

Here are five of the many ways this new hire can help you take your productivity to the next level.

1. Summarise this for me

Think back at the last long-form article which caught your attention. It managed to make you curious, but your time is at a premium, and you wouldn’t mind if someone else would read it for you and give you a short summary of the key messages from the article.

Next time this happen, copy the content of the article onto ChatGPT preceded by the following ‘prompt’ (the technical term for what you input onto it):

“Please summarise the key messages from the following article in less than 200 words.”

This single prompt will turn that 4,000 words article into a single paragraph. You can then make an informed decision on whether it is worth reading.

To illustrate this, here’s what ChatGPT replied when I asked it to summarise this very article:

“The article discusses how senior leaders can increase their productivity using ChatGPT, a Generative AI technology. ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can provide insights and recommendations, but it should not be used to do strategic work. The article suggests five ways that ChatGPT can help senior leaders become more efficient. Firstly, it can summarise long-form articles, secondly, it can replace search engines and provide curated answers with follow-up questions. Thirdly, it can serve as a sounding board for ideas by impersonating a stakeholder, such as a Chief Finance Officer. Fourthly, it can help with meeting preparation by providing insights into the type of solution a vendor is trying to sell. Finally, it can provide inspiration for content creation, although it is not recommended to use it to write articles. While ChatGPT has the potential to be as disruptive as the adoption of computers, the article warns that it is not without its caveats and that it should be used with caution.”

2. Replace your search engine

There are two major differences between ChatGPT and your usual search engine. First, ChatGPT gives you a curated answer, not a list of links. Second, and more crucially, you can ask ChatGPT follow-up questions, and it will bear your first query in mind when answering. It allows you to dig deeper or course correct what it gives you, enabling you to find your desired answer faster.

3. Serve as a sounding board

ChatGPT can serve as an exceptional sounding board for ideas that you may be contemplating. You can put an idea forward and ask it to critique or share how a stakeholder may react to it. You can then build upon what it says and keep the conversation going. You may even want to ask it to take on the role of said stakeholder and have a conversation with you, as if you were talking to them on your usual messaging platform.

To ask ChatGPT to take on the role of a stakeholder, start the prompt by telling it who it is impersonating. For example:

“You are a [Chief Finance Officer] of a [large pharmaceutical company] and are [concerned with the cashflow profile of some of the newest products the organisation is contemplating]”.

You would then share the point you are wanting to make and conclude by asking “what do you think of the idea outlined above?” and let the conversation flow for as long as is helpful.

4. Better meeting preparation

As famed military strategist Sun Tzu once said, “If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

How often do you prepare for an external meeting to your satisfaction? How helpful would it be if you could get a snapshot of the type of solution the vendor is trying to sell before the pitch starts? Or if you could get a feel for the questions you should ask, or the pitfalls associated with that type of product or services? These questions and many more can be uncovered with ChatGPT.

As before, ask ChatGPT to take on a role, either that of a salesperson, or that of a satisfied (or disgruntled) customer of their solution and gather some insights in minutes, making you the most prepared executive they will have dealt with all quarter.

5. Help you create content

The worst possible thing you can do with ChatGPT, is ask it to write an article for you, and publishing it. Fortunately for you, you know better (and if you are lucky, your competitor doesn’t).

ChatGPT is a relatively bad writer, but a more than decent advisor or source of inspiration. To illustrate: we enlisted the help of ChatGPT to write this article: we asked it to share over 40 different examples of “how busy executives could become more productive using it” and built from there (note that only one in 40 ideas made it to this article, everything else comes from practical experience).

Likewise, if you are struggling for ideas of content to write, ask it to take on the role of your ideal customer profile, and to share with you 10, 15, 20 things it would want to hear from your organisation and it will happily indulge you.

If you ever ask it to write for you, edit heavily, both for style and accuracy, especially if this is for an article you want featured on your website.

Caveats to bear in mind

Now you have a few ideas on how to use the technology, it is important that we also cover some of the pitfalls involved and when not to use it.

When to avoid ChatGPT

Anything that can be seen as remotely sensitive or confidential should be kept away from those technologies. The information that is put into ChatGPT will be stored. It will be used to improve the engine further. Assume that whatever you put in there could plausibly be accessed by people working behind the scenes.

In other words, if John from R&D has yet again sent you War & Peace on the latest update of his breakthrough, resist the urge of asking ChatGPT to summarise it.

Do not blindly trust what ChatGPT tells you
ChatGPT is fallible. It will get things wrong. And sometimes, it will do so despite appearing categorically certain of what it has to say (like humans). Use ChatGPT to help you refine your thinking, but do not let it replace actual, genuine experts on important matters. ChatGPT has been known to hallucinate (the term used when the technology makes stuff up) despite the gigantic body of knowledge it relies upon. Using ChatGPT is not a pass to turn the critical thinking off, if anything, a responsible user should be more vigilant.

ChatGPT is stuck in the past

As of May 2024, ChatGPT had absolutely no knowledge of anything that has happened after September 2021. Therefore, asking it to help you identify key trends on anything is a terrible idea, given it is missing key data to help it accurately make assumptions.

Like any tool, master it and you’ll reap handsome rewards

No tool is entirely fool proof, but people who know how to harness ChatGPT will be a cut above the rest in terms of quality, efficiency, and effectiveness. Make it a part of your process rather than the process itself and you will thrive.

Ultimately, you need to explore and investigate, find ways it can help you, beyond the five mentioned here. There are countless cases, and many will be a lot more aligned to your specific role and industry, all it takes is for you to look out for them and, crucially, accept that it won’t help you with everything. The worst thing you can do is see every problem as a nail, and ChatGPT, as your newest hammer.

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