Key Questions Boards Should Ask Company Leaders About AI

Rocío Bachmaier
CEO & Co-founder
January 29, 2024

In the rapidly evolving landscape of AI, company leaders are now prioritising the comprehension and integration of this game-changing technology. AI has undeniable potential to reshape industries, but it also presents substantial risks and challenges that demand careful handling. While our previous insights have provided CEOs with a foundation, we now shift our focus to the crucial role that board members play in this era dominated by AI.

What is the role of the board in AI adoption? 

Board members play a critical role in supporting company leaders on their AI journey, as they are needed to act as both a guiding force and a strategic partner to ensure businesses stay at the forefront of this latest technological development while mitigating the risks. Yet many board members tell us they aren’t sure how to support their CEOs as they face the rapidly unfolding AI landscape. The key lies in actively engaging with management teams through strategic and constructive questions. This approach enables board members to facilitate progress, ensuring that the pursuit of AI-driven value creation is carefully balanced with effective risk management.

Below we dive into specific areas and strategic questions that board members should focus on. These will provide practical guidance for navigating the complexities of AI, ensuring that company leaders are supported effectively in making informed decisions that align with both innovation goals and risk management.

1. Industry Impact Assessment:

Understanding the impact of AI on specific industries and companies is fundamental for strategic planning. Boards should encourage management to analyse both the immediate and long-term effects of this technology on their operations and market position. This involves exploring how AI can enhance current business processes, identify new growth opportunities, and potentially disrupt existing models.

Strategic Questions for Management:

  • How will AI reshape our industry in the short and long term?
  • What immediate opportunities can we leverage to improve efficiency and competitiveness?
  • How can we future-proof our strategy and business model in light of AI’s potential?

2. Risk Management:

In embracing AI, it's crucial to balance the pursuit of value with the management of associated risks. Boards should probe into how the management team plans to address the ethical, legal, and security challenges posed by AI, ensuring that the company's innovations do not compromise its reputation or regulatory compliance.

Strategic Questions for Management:

  • Are we effectively balancing innovation with risk mitigation in our AI initiatives?
  • How are we addressing ethical concerns, privacy issues, and potential biases?
  • What legal and regulatory frameworks are we implementing to manage known and emerging risks?

3. AI Organisational Structure for AI:

The organisational approach to AI is a critical factor in its successful implementation. Boards should query management on how the company is structuring its teams and processes around AI, emphasising the need for cross-functional collaboration, clear leadership, and strategic partnerships to maximise the technology’s potential.

Strategic Questions for Management:

  • Have we designated a senior executive to oversee all AI activities?
  • How are we ensuring a coordinated approach across various business functions?
  • What partnerships and alliances are we forming to enhance our capabilities in AI?

4. Capability Building:

The successful deployment of AI hinges on a company’s technological infrastructure and talent pool. Boards need to ensure that their companies are well-equipped in terms of technology, skilled personnel, and a culture conducive to innovation. This includes assessing the company's readiness to adapt to the evolving demands of AI.

Strategic Questions for Management:

  • Do we have the necessary technological infrastructure and talent to keep pace with AI?
  • How are we addressing the changing workforce dynamics and skill requirements brought by AI?
  • What cultural shifts are needed to foster innovation and ethical use of AI?

5. Measuring AI Success:

The traditional approach to measuring the return on investment (ROI) and overall effectiveness must evolve when it comes to AI. This is due to AI's inherent nature of exploration and uncertainty, differentiating it significantly from traditional computing models. Boards and executives should cultivate an understanding that AI initiatives often involve an extended phase of exploration, where outcomes are not immediately certain and are heavily influenced by various complex parameters.

Strategic Questions for Management:

  • How are we shifting our management processes from traditional, immediate result-based KPIs to innovation driven?
  • How are we adapting our evaluation metrics to account for the exploratory and inductive learning nature of AI? 

These strategic considerations will guide boards and executives in navigating the complexities of AI, ensuring a balanced, responsible, and forward-thinking approach that leverages the technology's transformative power while maintaining ethical integrity and business sustainability.

Is the Board ready?

As boards aim to assist their CEOs in harnessing the benefits of generative AI and mitigating its risks, they must first ask themselves a fundamental question: Do we have the necessary knowledge and tools to effectively offer this support? 

If board members lack a clear understanding of generative AI and its potential consequences, they will find it challenging to accurately assess the impact of the company's AI strategy. This includes making informed judgments on investments, risk management, talent acquisition, technological needs, and other critical areas affecting the organisation and its stakeholders. However, our discussions with board members have shown that many acknowledge they are not fully versed in these aspects of generative AI.

The Board as an enabler of change

In conclusion, as we navigate the transformative era of AI, it's clear that board members hold a pivotal role in guiding and supporting their CEOs and management teams. Their involvement is crucial not only in steering the strategic direction of AI adoption but also in ensuring a balanced approach to innovation and risk management. This article has outlined key areas and posed strategic questions that can assist board members in effectively fulfilling this role. However, a fundamental challenge remains: many board members need to enhance their understanding of AI to provide this vital support effectively. Addressing this knowledge gap is essential for boards to fully grasp AI's potential impact and guide their organisations towards a successful, ethical, and sustainable AI-driven future. 

Our upcoming article will focus on this challenge, don't miss the opportunity to get the insights and tools to empower board members in this critical aspect of governance in the AI age!

Book a Free Assessment Today
Reach out and book a 30-min consultation to assess your current AI possibilities for free
Block left Image - Block right text:
AI Free Assessment
30 mins