Empowering AI Leadership

A toolkit for corporate officers to identify the benefits of artificial intelligence for their companies and how to operationalize it in a responsible way

The Challenge:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the software engine that drives the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Its impact can already be seen in homes, across businesses and impacting political processes. When embodied in robots, it will soon be driving cars, stocking warehouses and caring for the young and elderly. Within computers and smart devices, it is already shaping our society, including who is given mortgages, released from prison, and shown job opportunities. While AI holds the promise of solving some of the most pressing issues facing society, it also presents challenges, such as inscrutable “black box” algorithms, unethical use of data and potential job displacement.

As AI increasingly becomes an imperative for business models across industries, corporate leaders will be required to identify the specific benefits this complex technology can bring to their businesses as well the concerns about the need to design, develop and deploy it responsibly. Striking the right balance will lead to sustainable businesses in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but failing to design, develop and use AI responsibly can bring damage brand value and risk customer backlash.

The Opportunity

Board members and corporate executives of all companies are responsible for stewarding their companies through the current period of unprecedented technological change and its attendant societal impacts. A practical set of tools can empower them in asking the right questions, understanding the key trade-offs and meeting the needs of diverse stakeholders, as well as how to consider and optimize approaches when overseeing and operationalising artificial intelligence, to ensure ethical and responsible implementation.  


In collaboration with board members and key stakeholders from diverse companies and industries, as well as experts from academia and civil society, the World Economic Forum published the AI Toolkit for Boards of directors in January 2020. Its 12 modules are designed to help Boards of directors understand the impacts and potential of AI in their company strategy (Customer, Brand, Cybersecurity, Employees, Technology, Operations, and Competition) and the main areas of control (Audit, Risk, Governance). The Toolkit supports companies in deciding whether and how to adopt particular approaches and in understanding the power of the technology to advance their business. It was co-designed with key representatives from the private and public sectors, academia and civil society to ensure it meets the specific needs of corporate leaders and can lead to practical action and concrete impact.

The project team is currently co-creating a new Toolkit focusing on how to operationalise AI for C-suite executives. It will be aligned with C-suite executives’ responsibilities and interests and will address topics that are specific to conventional C-suite positions (e.g. CEOs, COOs, CFOs) as well as emerging positions (e.g. Chief Data Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Technology Officer). Similar to the Toolkit for Boards of directors, the Toolkit for C-suite executives will also support companies in deciding whether and how to adopt particular approaches and in understanding the power of the technology to advance their business.


For more information, contact Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning, at Kay.Firth-Butterfield@weforum.org or ai@weforum.org 

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