CEOs embrace disruptive technologies to drive innovation and growth, but concerns on ethics, security, and sustainability linger.
With all due respect to “necessity,” in today’s challenge-filled business landscape, adversity is the real motor of innovation these days.
That sentiment is one of the key takeaways from our KPMG 2023 CEO Outlook survey, which found business leaders contemplating a pivotal moment amid rapidly evolving demographic, geopolitical, financial, and technology headwinds.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the more than 1,300 chief executive officers (CEOs) who participated in our survey are worried about this volatile climate of uncertainty, and especially as workforce dynamics continue to spin off in hard-to-predict new directions, further complicating a company’s ability to fully embrace their pivotal moment and make some rapid course corrections.
And yet, one rallying cry for business leaders rose above the din at the KPMG 2023 Tech and Innovation Symposium: To thrive in this ever-evolving landscape, organizations must proactively embrace disruptive technologies, prioritize corporate innovation, and rapidly integrate tech innovations—and do all of that while maintaining a human-centered approach.
Breakthrough technologies like generative artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, blockchain, and spatial computing can help businesses navigate today’s competitive challenges—and position leaning-in companies for growth and success. But, when off strategy or executed poorly, they can also distract the business and hold it back.
Navigating this landscape is a balancing act. It requires not only a keen eye for opportunities but also a prudent approach to managing risks. As they tread the path of innovation, CEOs must leverage the potential of technology while safeguarding their organizations against a seemingly endless list of uncertainties. Here’s how modern leaders are walking that tightrope.
CEOs are optimistic about the transformative potential of technology, particularly generative AI, quantum computing, blockchain, and spatial computing. These innovations promise to enhance efficiency and productivity and also open new growth avenues.
More than two-thirds (70 percent) of the CEOs in our survey say generative AI is their top investment priority, with 52 percent expecting to see return on investment in three to five years. Yet, 82 percent worry it will also bring new dangers by providing new attack strategies for adversaries.
Percentage of CEOs who say generative AI is their top investment priority, with...
...expecting a return in three to five years.
On one hand, these technologies offer improved capabilities in detecting cyber incidents. On the other, there is a palpable acknowledgment of being ill-equipped to handle the new attack strategies that bad actors armed with AI might employ.
As a result, CEOs are carefully observing the landscape before fully committing to implementation. This prudent stance reflects a desire to assess the technology’s maturity and stability, ensuring a smooth integration into their organizations.
Generative AI holds the promise of unparalleled efficiency and productivity gains, a prospect that entices CEOs. Increased profitability is the top potential benefit of implementing generative AI (22 percent), according to those we surveyed, with new product and market growth opportunities coming in second (15 percent).
However, the ethical implications of AI-driven decisions weigh heavily. It’s the top concern around implementing generative AI (57 percent). More than half of CEOs also cited the cost of implementation, the technical capability and skill required to implement the technology, and a lack of regulation.
The percentage of CEOs who site ethical implementation as a top concern for generative AI, while...
...worry it will provide new opportunities for bad actors.
These concerns have delayed progress for many, leading to a more measured approach to implementation. The mantra: Test, learn, step forward, repeat.
Corporate innovation is no longer a luxury. CEOs recognize the imperative of embracing technology-driven innovation to stay competitive. Technologies like AI are not distant dreams but present realities, reshaping how businesses operate.
The immediacy of these advancements means CEOs can capitalize on these technologies now, driving immediate value and staying ahead of the curve. Bold ideas, rapid experimentation, and a culture of innovation are the new norms, fostering an environment in which creativity thrives.
But CEOs are also taking time to make sure technology is always in service to human experiences. By ensuring that technology aligns with human values—and delivers tangible value to actual people—CEOs envision a future where innovation is not only profitable, but also ethical and meaningful.
As our Tech and Innovation Symposium confirmed, technology is moving at a breathtaking pace. But that doesn’t have to mean breathless business planning or hurtling ahead with halfway innovations.
Instead, four guiding takeaways emerged from our Symposium that can help business leaders manage this new reality of mastering multiple, often competing balancing acts to unlock innovation:
Sure, the path to technological innovation and integration is full of hurdles. And these challenges often hinder progress, forcing CEOs to navigate complex landscapes before fully embracing emerging technologies. The intricate nature of implementation demands careful planning and execution. But with the right roadmap, innovative new solutions will make the business stronger.
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