Behind the scenes at the Outthinker Chief Strategy Officer Summit

Rita McGrath
5 min readNov 17, 2023

There is nothing like gathering with a group of peers from other organizations and sectors to facilitate making sense of the context in which crucial strategic decisions need to be made. I was pleased to be an invited guest to the Outthinker CSO Summit, with the main topics being how organizations are using AI and what’s next at the intersection of strategy, innovation and organization.

Kaihan Krippendorff and the gang at Outthinkers Network carefully curate events for their members during which exchanges with experts and peer-to-peer interactions offer insights that would not be available via any other mechanism. I feel fortunate to be part of their Leader Board and occasionally to head over to one of their sessions. This one, on November 13, was hosted by Chief Strategy Officer for BNY Mellon / Pershing and member Thomas P. Sholes. I jokingly said that I felt as if I were at the center of the beating heart of the capitalist system and he said I wasn’t far off, as BNY Mellon touches 20% of the world’s assets in some way. That’s impressive.

Talking AI and strategy

One of the sessions focused deeply on what effect AI is likely to have on strategy. Clearly, the ability to summon massive amounts of information at low cost at the touch of a button is likely to create big changes for a field that has for a long time relied heavily on analytics and data-drilling to pry insights out of generic data.

A predictable effect is that conventional strategy analysis is likely to speed up. As one participant put it (to chuckles all around), “now you can skip the first 3 days of your strategy offsite because AI can give you a contrast to your biases and you can get right down to the stuff you nearly always give short shrift to at the end of the meeting….”

Some of the more fun speculations were on the role AI might play in doing some of the things that people in the traditional strategy function might do. Imagine if synthetic AI generated voice bots could conduct informational interviews the way the GLG Group might do. Imagine if you could summon the conventional wisdom of all the relevant consultants and see how it stacks up against your own thinking. Imagine if you could model dozens or even hundreds of potential…

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Rita McGrath

Columbia Business School Professor. Thinkers50 top 10 & #1 in strategy. Bestselling author of The End of Competitive Advantage & Seeing Around Corners.