The Fortune CEO Initiative is all about helping business leaders find ways to promote social progress as part of their core strategies. This piece is based on a discussion among CEO members during this year’s CEO Initiative Annual Meeting. The authors are CEOI members and were co-chairs of this year’s annual meeting.
So here’s the deal, all you CEOs out there are figuring out how to prepare for the AI leaders of the future. AI is everywhere these days, and it offers countless opportunities. But with new tech comes new challenges, especially when it comes to implementing AI in organizations. Lucky for you, we’re here to give you some things to consider as you bring AI into your companies and train the next generation of leaders.
If you want to get value out of AI, it has to be user-friendly and accessible to everyone. It needs to be managed in a responsible and safe way, and you have to measure its performance just like you would with any other strategic business initiative. We’re absolutely stoked about generative AI because it’s all about leveling the playing field and giving everyone access to automation through an intuitive interface.
Here’s the thing, the people who know the most about the business or product are often the ones who discover the most valuable ways to use AI. Now, don’t get us wrong, you might still need data scientists or PhDs to deploy AI, but the real power of generative AI comes from solving complex business problems in a practical setting. The easy chatbot-style interface allows everyone in your organization to get involved and use AI to advance your company’s goals.
So here’s our advice: CEOs should encourage the use of generative AI throughout their organizations to improve productivity, boost creativity, and increase operational efficiency. As leaders, we should lead by example and regularly experiment with generative AI both professionally and personally. Like any new skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll get and the more benefits you’ll see from using this amazing technology.
Think of generative AI as your co-pilot
Imagine generative AI as a helpful voice, a virtual analyst, or even a co-pilot. You’re still the boss, steering the ship and making decisions, but with AI, you have extra support and access to ideas and iterations that can help you achieve your goals faster than ever before.
We truly believe that generative AI and AI in general are the biggest game-changers in recent years. However, like with any major transition, there will be more questions than answers at first. Luckily, we can draw from our experience with change management and governance frameworks to empower our employees and protect our customers and companies.
When it comes to AI, you need to establish process governance, provide education, set measurable targets, and have management oversight. It’s important to be proactive in creating guardrails through education, security protocols, acceptable usage definitions, and data privacy policies to ensure responsible use of AI.
Additionally, leaders must keep a watchful eye on generative AI, just like any other new technology. This means monitoring, detecting incidents, and implementing strong management systems and executive ownership. Education and instilling the right culture are crucial. Remember, your organization’s security is only as strong as its weakest link, so it’s important to educate and train every employee properly.
Embrace rapid experimentation
Once you’ve established the necessary guidelines and guardrails, it’s time to unleash the power of your employees’ expertise. They have specific knowledge about your customers, challenges, and solutions, so empower them to innovate and form small teams to tackle concrete problems. Dive deep into specific issues and focus on developing the skills to work with AI through A/B testing, measurement, and interaction. Embrace a culture of rapid experimentation, and keep trying, measuring, refining, deploying, and repeating.
We understand the desire to solve big problems right away, but remember, AI is still a relatively new technology, and we’re all still learning. Just think about how long it took us to figure out the internet! We went through trial and error, but eventually, we got the hang of it. The same will happen with AI, except this time, the learning curve will be much shorter.
We predict that the younger generation will lead the way in leveraging generative AI. They’re already driven by a strong sense of purpose, and when combined with intuitive technology, they’ll be able to tackle complex problems that seemed unsolvable in the past. However, it’s important to remember that young people don’t have the same level of experience and judgment as more mature workers. They’ll need guidance and support to use new tools ethically.
Lastly, with any disruptive technology, there’s a risk of creating inequality. We believe it’s essential for leaders to intentionally use generative AI to increase access and equality. We also need to ensure that the outputs of AI are ethical, and this starts with understanding the source and supply line of generative AI. CEOs should play a bigger role in educating and developing skills beyond their companies, reaching out to the communities they serve and supporting relevant curricula in schools and workplaces for all employees.
As industries adopt AI on a larger scale, we’ll see meaningful benefits from this wave of innovation. But as futurist Roy Amara famously said, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the impact in the long run.” We’re at the beginning of an incredibly exciting future, where leaders can make a real positive difference.
Rob Lake is co-founder and CEO of Boulevard. Jennifer Tejada is chairperson and CEO of PagerDuty.