Jan Burian
Jan Burian (Head of IDC Manufacturing Insights EMEA, IDC EMEA)

AI, which is poised to accelerate change more than any technology in history, has finally seized the CEO agenda. For those who viewed AI opportunistically, the introduction of generative AI (GenAI), along with the capabilities of large language models, is serving as a wake-up call to a new era.

According to IDC’s cross-industry Future Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey of January 2024, 37% of respondents globally believe GenAI will make a significant impact in the next 18 months. Nearly one-quarter said GenAI was beginning to disrupt their business, with 10% reporting it had already done so. Interestingly, these impacts are being felt most strongly by organizations in Asia/Pacific, followed closely by those Europe and the U.S.

Business competition remains fierce at the regional, national, and organizational levels. Conversations with numerous CEOs and senior managers about their approach to disruptive technologies, particularly AI and GenAI, prompted me to question whether leaders are asking themselves the right questions as they navigate this disruptive landscape.

Leaders of enterprises and medium-sized companies are adopting unique approaches. Some are enthusiastic about the potential productivity offered by innovative technologies. Others take a more cautious approach, advocating a measured strategy until the benefits of these technologies are proven on a broader scale.

This dichotomy often arises in discussions about emerging technologies like AI, cloud computing, and digital twins.

I’ve compiled a dozen key questions leaders should be asking as they guide their organizations through the dynamic — and potentially perilous — landscape of disruptive technologies:

  1. Recognizing Disruptive Technology

How can I determine whether it’s just buzz or a truly disruptive technology that our company can benefit from?

It’s crucial to develop a keen ability to distinguish between industry hype and genuinely disruptive technologies. This requires staying informed about emerging trends, engaging with industry experts, and fostering a culture that encourages innovative thinking.

  1. Building a Self-Learning Organization

How can I know if we have a self-learning organization whose organizational structure and processes enable us to identify, test, pilot, and objectively assess technology trends?

Organizational structures and processes must be assessed to ensure they foster a self-learning environment. This involves creating channels for identifying, testing, piloting, and objectively assessing technology trends within the company and promoting a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.

  1. Balancing Short- and Long-Term Focus

How can we benefit from new technology? Will a short-term focus jeopardize our competitive advantage?

Addressing immediate needs is crucial, but the long-term impact of new technology must also be evaluated. Embracing sustainable and forward-thinking strategies can help organizations avoid a myopic focus on short-term gains and instead build a competitive advantage.

  1. Data Protection and Cybersecurity

Personal productivity tools are great — but what about data protection and cybersecurity?

As organizations integrate personal productivity tools powered by AI, data protection and cybersecurity must be prioritized. Implementing robust measures to safeguard sensitive information is essential to reduce potential risks and ensure stakeholder trust.

  1. Technology Ecosystem

Do we need to be part of an ecosystem of technology vendors, advisors, and service providers?

Yes, it is critical to have access to a robust and versatile ecosystem of technology vendors, advisors, and service providers to navigate the complexities of emerging technologies. A collaborative approach enhances the organization’s capacity to understand, adopt, and integrate new technologies.

  1. Absorbing Innovation

How can I know if my organization has the ability to absorb another innovation? Will we need to create new dedicated positions, teams, or even departments?

Assessing the organization’s capacity to absorb new innovations is critical. Hence, it must be determined if your existing structures can accommodate technological changes or if dedicated positions, teams, or departments need to be created to facilitate a smooth integration.

  1. Avoiding Pilot Purgatory

In earlier technology deployment projects, we wound up parked in “pilot purgatory.” How can I know if we have learned from these experiences?

Another stop in “pilot purgatory” is possible if organizations haven’t learned from their previous technology deployment challenges. Organizations should establish clear guidelines and action plans for transitioning from pilot phases to full-scale implementation. This is vital to realize the full potential of tools like AI.

  1. Constant Change

Do our leaders need training to help them understand new paradigms and guide the organization in a world of constant change?

A continual education culture should be established to navigate the relentless change associated with emerging technologies. Such training would involve understanding new paradigms, learning how to foster adaptability, and creating a learning culture that supports leaders during times of uncertainty and rapid technological shifts.

  1. Balancing Human-Machine Collaboration

Who’s taking the lead: machines or humans?

Assess the roles of machines and humans within the organization. Striking a balance between automation and human involvement ensures harmonious collaboration that leverages the strengths of both, leading to increased efficiency and innovation.

  1. Regulatory Aspects

Should regulatory aspects be in our focus from the first discussions of the technology?

Prioritize regulatory considerations from the outset. Proactively addressing regulatory compliance ensures a smoother integration process and mitigates potential legal and ethical challenges.

  1. Contingency Planning

If we change or terminate technology at the company level, do we need a contingency plan?

A thoroughly prepared contingency plan should be in place when changing or terminating technology at the company level. This ensures minimal disruption and facilitates a smooth transition in case unforeseen challenges arise during the implementation or adoption process.

  1. Talent Management

How can I know if we have the talent to cultivate talent in the coming periods?

Focus on developing and retaining talent capable of driving technological advancement. This involves identifying, nurturing, and empowering individuals who possess the skills and mindset to lead the organization through the evolving landscape of AI and emerging technologies.

The Bottom Line

Being a leader who guides other leaders in transforming and revolutionizing industries and management domains demands a distinct set of skills and qualities, particularly the ability to pose the right questions — both to oneself and to the relevant stakeholders. Sometimes, despite our vantage point at the helm, we fail to anticipate the emergence of the next disruptive technology or product.

Some leaders might assert, “I rely on intuition, experience, and advisors to perceive what others cannot.” I advise caution. When it comes to leveraging technology adoption to gain a genuine competitive advantage, only a select few can keep pace with the relentless influx of new technologies.

It’s akin to a wild goose chase. But initiating the right discussions with yourself and your team can serve as a crucial starting point, potentially leading to the capture of flocks of opportunities!

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