Middle East CEOs: remaining competitive in the age of GenAI requires taking significant risk

Middle East CEOs: remaining competitive in the age of GenAI requires taking significant risk

A new study by the IBM Institute for Business Value has found that CEOs believe remaining competitive in the age of AI demands taking significant risk.

Sixty-eight percent of Middle East CEOs surveyed agreed that the potential productivity gains from automation are so great they must accept significant risk to stay competitive. Meanwhile, 46% of respondents are determined to take more risk than the competition to maintain their competitive edge.

The CEOs surveyed in the study, Six hard truths CEOs must face: How to leap forward with courage and conviction, are looking to disrupt their own ways of working, accelerating the pace of change. To win the future, 62% of global CEOs said they must rewrite their organisational playbook, while 56% of Middle East CEOs think competitive advantage depends on who has the most advanced Generative AI (GenAI).

“There is a shift in mindset among leaders, where the benefits associated with the adoption of advanced technology, such as GenAI, are seen to outweigh the risks. By embracing automation across their operations, organisations can accelerate innovation and future-proof their offerings,” said Saad Toma, General Manager, IBM Middle East and Africa.

The study has identified six key capabilities and characteristics that are helping CEOs prepare for the future. These include effective strategy development, expertise-led differentiation, robust technology foundation, outcomes-focused investment, active ecosystem engagement and actionable enterprise metrics.

In addition, the report notes that CEOs need to tackle six hard truths to outperform their competition in the age of GenAI:

  1. Your team isn’t as strong as you think. While CEOs are generally optimistic about their organisation’s readiness for GenAI, hiring challenges present a warning sign. The survey shows 42% are having difficulty filling key technology roles.
  2. The customer isn’t always right. While 80% of global CEOs find transparency around the adoption of new technologies critical to fostering customer trust, only 30% of Middle East CEOs identify customer experience as a key measure of their organisation’s enterprise transformation.
  3. Sentimentality is a weakness when expertise is in short supply. Sixty-nine percent of ME CEOs say they have the right network of partners to execute their strategy, while 61% believe changing strategic priorities demand reconfiguring core business partnerships.
  4. Sparring partners make the best leaders. CEOs must create a culture that encourages emphatic debate and constructive collaboration.
  5. People hate progress. Globally, 64% of CEOs believe that succeeding with AI will depend more on people’s adoption than the technology itself. Nearly half (49%) of ME CEOs say their organisation must take advantage of technologies that evolve faster than people can adapt, and 69% say they are pushing their organisation to adopt GenAI faster than some employees find comfortable.
  6. Tech shortcuts are a dead end. ME CEOs view a focus on short-term performance as the top barrier to innovation in their organisations, while 66% of global CEOs are meeting short-term targets by reallocating resources from longer-term efforts.
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