In an era when generative AI is no longer just the stuff of sci-fi movies and tech-nerd fantasies, the captains of the corporate ship find themselves navigating treacherous waters. AI’s ability to generate human-like text, images, and even music (cue the robot symphony) means the C-suite’s role in steering companies safely is as vital as a GPS. Below, I’m going to outline several strategies for the C-suite to successfully implement AI in their organizations.
The saying “With great power, comes great responsibility” couldn’t be more applicable than it is in an AI context. From AI-written “deepfake” articles to doctored images, generative AI’s risks are as profound as its benefits. As their organizations’ moral compass, C-suite execs must ensure generative AI’s incredible capabilities are wielded with a strong sense of ethical responsibility.
C-suite leaders should craft clear rules about how generative AI can be used — including creation, work augmentation, and process management. Further, they should draft rules concerning how it should not be used — including data manipulation, violation of privacy, and fake data.
There should be training and governance in place to ensure the entire organization understands and follows those rules. Finally, to responsibly implement AI, Acceleration Economy analyst Toni Witt advises that leaders ask questions including:
- How are models making decisions?
- Are they looking at the right things?
- Are we dealing with data ethically?
- Is our system secure and robust?
- Are we compliant?”
I can see a future where there will be entirely new organizations that audit and manage the functionality and output of generative AI programs to ensure that their corporate values and rules are adhered to. This will protect a firm’s value and safeguard its brand.
Embrace and Invest
Shying away from new technology is about as effective as bringing a knife to a gunfight — it’s not a viable option. Leaders need to invest not just in the technology itself, but in the training, education, and infrastructure to support it. This isn’t just a job for the IT department — this is a company-wide march towards the future, and C-suite leaders are the drum majors. This starts with each C-suite member being fully educated on generative AI, as well as being able to use it to some extent.
Next, they need to put a learning and development plan in place that offers everything from skills building for all employees who will create generative AI models and outputs to core basics for everyone in the organization. Not every employee will be a generative AI engineer or creator, but they all need to understand the technology and their own role in using it ethically and to add value.
Offer Firm Guidance
Generative AI may be smart, but it still needs guidance. Imagine a toddler with a genius-level IQ but the emotional maturity of, well, a toddler. That’s generative AI. The technology can produce incredibly sophisticated outputs, but it can’t inherently distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate, ethical and unethical. It requires the nuanced, human understanding of the C-suite to guide its deployment.
For example, generative AI might analyze a firm’s data and observe a decline in sales along with a history of winning big deals through heavy discounting. Consequently, the AI might suggest discounting all products to boost sales. However, this approach could lead to adverse consequences, costing the firm profits. Leadership must guide the AI to better understand the real issue (in this instance, perhaps feature sets or marketing materials) and solve that problem in the right way.
Maintain Open Dialogue
C-suite leadership must maintain an open dialogue with employees and stakeholders about AI. Let’s face it, AI can be as mysterious to the uninitiated as quantum physics explained in ancient Greek. The C-suite needs to demystify AI, engaging stakeholders in understanding its potential and risks. Driving acceptance and adoption while also understanding the fears and concerns of employees is key. Leaders must become as fluent in discussing AI and its human impact as they are in discussing business strategy and financials.
The C-suite should add generative AI discussions to their town halls, create employee education paths for their teams to learn AI, and demonstrate their ethical use of the technology in content, process, or innovation as a way to show they understand and are embracing the technology.
With the surge of generative AI, the C-suite is tasked with a leadership role that is more important than ever. These leaders must provide the ethical standards, investment backing, guidance, and communication needed to harness this technology’s power responsibly. Only then can companies truly find success with AI.