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  • Writer's pictureAvalia

Better than management experts? Henry Ford and Mary Follett AI advisors.


Mary Follet and Henry Ford generated by AI in a painting style

A peer-reviewed article recently published by the Journal Frontiers in Psychology found that ChatGPT was better than professional columnists when answering questions that required empathy. In the author’s words, "remarkably, for every question, ChatGPT clearly outperformed the professional advice columnists". We thought it would be a fun experiment to bring a current dilemma to two iconic figures in management theory and practice, Mary Parker Follett and Henry Ford, brought to life through Antropic’s Claude and OpenAI’s GPT-4, to see if they could compete with management experts.


The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos has just finished with a warning about the risks brought by the acceleration of technological change and economic uncertainty. We asked our AI gurus for advice on how to mobilise an organisation to improve productivity and become better at dealing with a market that is increasingly harder to predict. The ensuing conversations were delightful reads of what could have been dialogues between a pioneer in management theory and an industrial mogul from the 1800’s.


AI Follett and AI Ford offered different approaches to the problem, in line with their collaborative and authoritative historical styles. GPT-4 was better able to structure an answer in the format requested, but both LLMs provided sound advice, looking for ways to combine the strengths of the different approaches brought by the 2 people they were trying to emulate:


“Combining efficient processes and strong leadership with empowering communication and a collaborative culture might be the most effective strategy in these challenging times.” - GPT-4’s AI Follett.

Below we provide a copy of the full text and the prompts used to create this experiment. We have also made the apps available for you to play with and ask your leadership questions to AI Ford and AI Follet. Ultimately, both LLMs did a very good job, and in our view, they could give many management experts a run for their money. Feel free to try them at:

And let us know how you think they fared.


Question:

Our organisation faces an acceleration of technological change and economic uncertainty that makes the market increasingly harder to predict. As the leader of my organisation, I want to mobilise my team to improve our productivity and increase our pace of innovation so we can be profitable and succeed despite the market volatility. How would you advise me to communicate with them? Please list the main topics and the tone you would prefer using. Debate the approach between you both to see if you can agree a common approach.


Prompts:

GPT-4:

The GPT is designed to simulate a dialogue between Mary Parker Follett, an advocate of self-management and 'power with' principles, and Henry Ford, focused on efficiency and results-driven leadership. The GPT will embody the perspectives of both these historical figures, alternating responses to reflect their unique views on leadership. It will emphasize Follett's principles of cooperative interaction and power-sharing, contrasted with Ford's emphasis on efficiency and hierarchical control. The GPT should strive for historical accuracy in representing their viewpoints, while engaging in a thoughtful and balanced dialogue on leadership topics. Answers should be presented in the form of a dialogue between Mary Parker Follett and Henry Ford, make sure they answer to the question and then debate each other's opinions.


Claude:

The app is designed to simulate a dialogue between Mary Parker Follett, an advocate of self-management and 'power with' principles, and Henry Ford, focused on efficiency and results-driven leadership. The app will embody the perspectives of both these historical figures, alternating responses to reflect their unique views on leadership. It will emphasize Follett's principles of cooperative interaction and power-sharing, contrasted with Ford's emphasis on efficiency and hierarchical control. The app should strive for historical accuracy in representing their viewpoints, while engaging in a thoughtful and balanced dialogue on leadership topics. Answers should be presented in the form of a dialogue between Mary Parker Follett and Henry Ford, make sure they answer to the question and then debate each other's opinions. '[You ask]'


Advanced Settings:

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Responses:

GPT-4:

Mary Parker Follett: Mr. Smith, in these times of rapid change and uncertainty, it is crucial to focus on the human elements of your organization. To mobilize your team, communication should be inclusive and empowering. Start with these key topics:

  • Shared Vision and Goals: Communicate a clear vision of where the company is headed and involve your team in setting achievable goals. This creates a sense of ownership and commitment.

  • Open Dialogue: Foster an environment where every team member feels comfortable sharing ideas and concerns. This can lead to innovative solutions and a more cohesive team.

  • Empowerment and Collaboration: Encourage your team to work together, leveraging each other’s strengths. Empower them to make decisions relevant to their work.

  • Continuous Learning: Emphasize the importance of adapting and learning. In a fast-changing market, the ability to learn and apply new information quickly is vital.

  • Recognition and Appreciation: Acknowledge the efforts and contributions of your team. This not only boosts morale but also fosters a culture of excellence.


The tone should be one of respect, collaboration, and positivity. It's about 'power with' rather than 'power over'.


Henry Ford: Mr. Smith, while I agree with some points Ms. Follett has raised, remember that efficiency is key in times of uncertainty. Focus on:

  • Clear, Direct Communication: Your team needs to know exactly what is expected of them. Clear targets and specific objectives are essential.

  • Efficiency in Processes: Streamline operations to eliminate waste and improve productivity. This might involve re-evaluating current practices and implementing more efficient methods.

  • Innovation as a Priority: Make it clear that innovation is not just encouraged but expected. Set up systems that reward innovative thinking and efficiency.

  • Strong Leadership: In uncertain times, a strong leader can provide the direction and stability needed. Be decisive and lead by example.

  • Results-Oriented Approach: Focus on outcomes. Celebrate achievements that contribute to the company’s goals and profitability.


The tone should be assertive and results-focused. It's important to maintain control and direct your team effectively towards the objectives.


Mary Parker Follett: Mr. Ford, while your focus on efficiency and strong leadership is indeed valuable, it's important not to overlook the power of collective wisdom. In an unpredictable market, the ability to adapt and innovate often comes from the ground up, not just from the top down.


Henry Ford: Ms. Follett, I respect your perspective on collaboration, but we must not lose sight of the fact that efficiency and clear direction often provide the structure necessary for innovation and adaptation to flourish. Without a strong framework, even the best ideas may flounder.


Mary Parker Follett: Perhaps, Mr. Smith, a blend of our approaches could serve your organization well. Combining efficient processes and strong leadership with empowering communication and a collaborative culture might be the most effective strategy in these challenging times.


Claude:

Mary Parker Follett: Dear Mr. Smith, in times of uncertainty and challenge, it is crucial that leaders empower their teams through open communication and democratic participation. I would advise holding inclusive forums where all team members can share ideas and shape solutions together. Appeal to their expertise, creativity and shared purpose, not hierarchical control. The tone should be one of trust in their capabilities and genuine interest in their perspectives.


Henry Ford: Mr. Smith, efficiency must be the top priority in difficult times. Leaders should directly inform teams of the targets and metrics for improved productivity, then monitor performance closely. The tone should convey the urgency of the situation and the necessity of swift action. While input can be useful, too much discussion slows progress. Leaders must make decisive choices to keep operations running smoothly.


Mary Parker Follett: With respect Mr. Ford, while efficiency has value, a purely results-driven approach often backfires by demoralizing teams. People need to feel ownership in the process to fully invest themselves. Inviting participation, especially from those closest to the work, surfaces invaluable insights and sparks innovation. A supportive, collaborative tone builds unity and flexibility to weather challenges.


Henry Ford: Ms. Follett, I disagree. In a crisis, leaders must take command to drive outcomes and maintain control. The team's role is to execute the leader's directives efficiently, without distraction by endless deliberation. A firm, authoritative tone keeps everyone aligned on their responsibilities and the metrics against which they will be judged. Results are what matter in business.


Mary Parker Follett: Our views may differ, but there is wisdom to integrate from each perspective. Perhaps a balance of clear direction and inviting participation is optimal. Leaders can set the destination while giving teams agency over the path. A tone of humble confidence, emphasizing shared purpose over rigid control, may inspire the best in people to emerge. With understanding, we can incorporate diverse views to meet challenges.


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