CEO Leadership

The Critical Factor Your CEO Overlooks When It Comes To AI

Your CEO can be as pro-AI as any, but if they don’t take this one thing into account, AI will become a monstrous force against the company.

Scott Smeester


June 27, 2024

Photo credit:
Lucas Metz

Want to know how to slay a monster, and how to not?

I grew up watching the cartoon version of Sinbad the Sailor. I didn’t realize they were stories traced to several hundred years back, stories of seven adventures.

On the third voyage, Sinbad and his crew encounter a grotesque and vicious monster. The monster begins eating the crew, beginning with the captain, who is the largest. 

Sinbad blinds the beast with two red-hot iron spits. He and the rest of his men escape on a raft they constructed. However, the giant's mate hits most of the escaping crew with rocks and they are killed. 

You slay a monster by facing it. You don’t slay a monster by turning your back to it.

That brings us to AI.

I have multiple conversations a week about AI. I have them with CIOs and I have them with CEOs. 

CIOs are facing the monster. They understand the need to discern AI’s business value, to set proper expectations, to bring security alongside it, to stack talent for it, and to implement it at a pace that serves actual objectives and not just act on a fear of missing out. 

Where AI could become unwieldy, CIOs rein it in.

CEOs and other decision makers are very open and enthusiastic about what AI can do for their company. At the same time, they are turning their back to it. Not consciously. Unknowingly. 

The monster is throwing rocks. The IT team is being hit; they lack the qualifications needed to implement AI to a competitive degree, specifically, AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, and data analytics. 

It’s not their fault. A challenge presented itself they were not qualified to meet.

Any company demanding more of AI but not supplying the personnel needed for the task is set up for failure. 

The CEO will face two unenviable scenarios: cost increase without increased value, and value decrease without cost decrease. 

All of a sudden, AI, which was to provide a competitive edge, turns on us.

All because we turned our backs on what it needs most: people skilled.

What The CEO Must Commit To

Dear CEOs and Boards: Authorize the CIO to hire talent, especially those who are proven learners, and not just a good portfolio. Portfolios matter; you are after applicable competence. But learners matter more. AI development requires you to have team members that are responsive and fluid to new knowledge and application.

Mix in freelancers. As  become more of the norm, contracted AI professionals are first line priority. 

Over half of surveyed CIOs said that they will see budget increases in large part because of AI and machine learning. The CEO must direct those increases to be used for the staffing needed, and not just the technology added. 

Skill gaps and AI is an issue regularly raised by CIOs in our CIO Mastermind groups. You are like Sinbad, sailing the high seas, navigating starless nights and tumultuous waves in this AI storm. 

CEOs serve you by giving you the crew you need, not just trying to upskill the one you have.

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