WE Communcations
Jul 15, 2024

How can executives lead a smooth AI transformation?

Insights from new WE Communications research on the AI expectations gap.

Left to right: Tiffany Cook, Nitin Mantri, Laura Gillen.
Left to right: Tiffany Cook, Nitin Mantri, Laura Gillen.

AI is everywhere, and global business leaders are bullish about the benefits the new technology could bring to their organisations. Gaps in strategic planning for AI could prevent businesses from being successful, though. That is the key finding from the new 2024 WE Communications Brands in Motion technology report, "Bridging the AI Expectation Gap", based on a survey of 2,900 business leaders in eight global markets.

Three WE technology leaders — Nitin Mantri, regional executive MD for Asia-Pacific, WE, and group CEO, Avian WE; Laura Gillen, MD, U.K.; and Tiffany Cook, president of client development — who work with clients across different global regions discussed their perspectives on the findings.

On what’s causing the gap between leadership vision and on-the-ground implementation of AI:
Nitin Mantri: One significant reason is the lack of effective communication and alignment among different levels of an organisation. Additionally, leaders may possess more resources and knowledge about AI than employees do. Other factors may include a lack of AI literacy among employees or an organisational culture resistant to change. Organisations’ first step is to identify what’s causing the gap in their case, so they can build change management strategies to close it.
Laura Gillen: No one knows just how quickly generative AI will go from interesting to essential, but we do know that’s the current trajectory. Business leaders are asked to do more with less, so some are living in this uncertainty and holding off on major investments in AI until they have hard data on delivered value. Others are embracing the potential and stand to benefit from its early adoption.
On the crucial role C-level leaders play in addressing the AI vision-action gap:
Tiffany Cook: C-level executives are the architects of transformation. Their mandate is to invest in transformation both financially and culturally, ignite cross-functional collaboration and be the vanguard of change. Taking an active role is essential: stand up an experimentation team, run concurrent sprints on new processes, collaborate with AI leaders, bring them in to audit and assess and guide and mobilise the entire org around AI with cross-functional teaming. It’s about getting hands on and leading by example to instil organisational change. 
Mantri: C-level leaders are solely responsible for setting the overall strategic direction and tone for AI adoption, which directly influences how it is perceived and implemented throughout the organisation. It is their duty to articulate the organisation’s AI vision, strategic objectives and priorities to employees and external stakeholders, as well as to drive a cultural change. Additionally, they are the allocators of resources, including budget, talent and infrastructure, to support AI initiatives.
On what leaders can do to bring their organisations along on the AI innovation journey:
Mantri: Leaders should respond to the latest wave of AI innovation by embracing a mindset of innovation and experimentation. Leaders today must continuously educate themselves about the latest developments and applications of AI technology, including its ethical considerations. To bring the organisation along in this journey, leaders should create an environment that values continuous learning and skill development, empowering employees to acquire the necessary knowledge and expertise in AI.
Cook: Inaction is not an option. It’s a race, and every moment of hesitation puts you further behind. Right now, companies should start developing a strong, holistic AI communication and engagement strategy that explains how AI is transforming the business.
Gillen: Leaders must be the narrators of the AI journey, ensuring momentum through continuous learning, room for experimentation and thoughtful application. Communication is key, but only if you are communicating about action, as there has been so much promise and hype around AI. To truly inspire, we need to foster a culture of action and have every team member feel they are an author in this evolving AI era. In the case of AI, action is inspiration.
Read WE Communications’ report, "Bridging the AI Expectation Gap," here.
Tiffany Cook is president of client development at WE Communications, where she oversees the direction and growth of WE’s technology and consumer sectors in North America.
Laura Gillen is MD, U.K., at WE Communications, where she is responsible for a number of WE’s technology clients in the U.K. and internationally, in addition to several more corporate-focused clients.
Nitin Mantri is regional executive MD for Asia-Pacific, WE, and group CEO, Avian WE.


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