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Business leaders anxious over tech disruption

Although there is significant investment in AI, the rate of change is a concern for many business leaders

Research from consulting firm Kin + Carta for its Leadership in tech 2024 report found that due to the rate of technological disruption, the majority of businesses are experiencing tech anxiety among their senior leadership team.

Kin + Carta defines tech anxiety as the feeling senior leaders have as a result of the rapid pace of advancements in technology that are causing concern when it comes to how their business operates.

The survey of 800 senior executives in the US and UK found cyber security is the most common source of anxiety for leaders. While research showing global cyber attacks rose by 7% in Q1 2023, Kin + Carta believes concerns over cyber security are unlikely to abate.

The study found worries regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are also commonplace. “Based on our analysis of leaders’ self-reported sources of anxiety, we found that technologies with the greatest disruptive potential generate the highest levels of concern. Additionally, external threats, such as regulatory changes, contribute to increased anxiety,” the report’s authors wrote.

They warned that as technologies advance, there is potential for AI and machine learning to create disruption alongside ethical challenges around job displacement, data privacy and algorithm bias. They could also trigger unintended consequences or errors in the decision-making process.

Investment in AI and machine learning is seen as the number one priority among global companies: 15% of leaders say they plan to invest in it this year, with cyber security second, on 12%. Three-quarters (75%) of leaders believe further investment in digital transformation initiatives to combat this anxiety is necessary in the next 12 months. More than half (58%) plan to spend more in the coming year compared with previous years.

According to the report’s authors, there is clear evidence that AI is disrupting multiple industries. They said the pace of transformation is increasing rapidly. In the 12 months leading up to June 2023, AI experienced a fivefold increase in interest on Google Trends. Organisations considered at the forefront of the AI field are attracting significant external interest and investment.

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Richard Neish, global chief strategy officer at Kin + Carta, said: “Overall, it appears that tech anxiety among leadership is primarily triggered by factors and technologies with the potential to significantly disrupt the established ways of working. We’ve all seen reports about the huge potential impact of AI, while previously we have seen cloud, mobile and indeed the birth of the World Wide Web completely alter the way businesses operate.

“There’s no doubt that technology is moving incredibly quickly, but concerns such as data trust and the internal skills gap can be managed, as long as businesses invest in the right areas.”

According to Kin + Carta, empowering leaders with a clear understanding of the current state of their business allows them to focus on decision-making.

“Our respondents highlighted the importance of timely and up-to-date data, as well as the value of supplementing internal data with public datasets from various domains, including financial markets and weather systems,” the report’s authors noted.

Kin + Carta recommended that businesses ensure they fuel AI strategies with high-quality data.

“Without reliable and accurate data feeding AI models, its true power will remain untapped,” it warned.

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