What Boards Should Know About AI and Generative AI

10 mins read

In recent years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has evolved from a peripheral business consideration to a core element of strategic planning. The convergence of cloud computing, high-speed processing, and abundant data availability has elevated AI to the forefront of corporate decision-making. The introduction of Generative AI, encompassing models like ChatGPT, Bard, and DALL-E 2, has further accelerated this transformation. Corporate boards, faced with the dual challenge of harnessing the strategic potential of AI while mitigating associated risks, play a pivotal role in steering companies through this dynamic landscape.

AI and Generative AI: A Watershed Moment

While AI has been present in various forms for decades, recent advancements have propelled it into the mainstream. Generative AI, characterised by its ability to create content and generate meaningful responses, has particularly captured the attention of C-suite executives. Models like ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, exemplify the capabilities of Generative AI in understanding and generating human-like text. This watershed moment has led executives and boards to reevaluate their technological strategies and adapt to the rapidly changing landscape.

Key Areas for Board Attention

Develop a Board Approach

The first step for boards in navigating the AI landscape is to develop a proactive approach. This involves increasing directors’ understanding of AI and Generative AI through continuous education. Workshops, seminars, and expert presentations, both internal and external, can facilitate this learning process.

Incorporating experts in AI and data science into the board or as advisors can provide invaluable insights. The complexity of AI technologies necessitates a nuanced understanding to ask informed questions and provide strategic guidance effectively.

Understand the Strategic Opportunities

Boards must grasp the strategic opportunities presented by AI and Generative AI. Beyond automation, these technologies have the potential to revolutionise how work is done, redefine customer interactions, and reshape competitive landscapes. Scenario planning exercises can help boards explore various future states based on AI adoption, identifying potential benefits and challenges.

Encouraging management to think creatively about how AI can drive innovation rather than being solely an efficiency tool is essential. The strategic implications of AI adoption should be considered not just in terms of efficiency gains but as a catalyst for new business models, revenue streams, and enhanced customer experiences.

Oversee Risks and Controls for Trusted AI

Ensuring responsible AI use requires robust oversight of risks and controls. Boards should collaborate with management to develop a governance model that establishes clear accountability for AI within the company. Key performance indicators related to AI governance, such as algorithmic bias and data privacy compliance, should be defined and regularly monitored.

Establishing an ethical framework for AI use is crucial. Boards should actively participate in the development of ethical guidelines and policies aligned with the company’s values. Transparency in decision-making processes and mechanisms for accountability, such as an AI ombudsman or an external advisory board, should be prioritised.

Keep Up with Emerging Regulations

The rapidly evolving regulatory landscape for AI demands proactive engagement from boards. Staying informed about emerging regulations and ensuring compliance with evolving standards are crucial to avoid legal and reputational pitfalls. Boards should consider establishing a dedicated regulatory affairs committee or designating an existing committee to oversee AI-related compliance.

Collaborating with legal experts specialising in AI and technology law enhances the board’s understanding of legal implications associated with AI adoption. This collaboration ensures that the company’s AI initiatives align with current and upcoming legal frameworks.

Get Educated on AI and Generative AI

Education forms the foundation for effective board oversight. Directors must familiarise themselves with the intricacies of AI and Generative AI, including their applications, limitations, and potential impacts. Comprehensive training programs, extending beyond introductory sessions, and leveraging external experts contribute to a well-rounded understanding.

Continuous education allows directors to guide management effectively, ask pertinent questions, and contribute meaningfully to strategic discussions. Partnering with academic institutions specialising in AI research and attending webinars or lectures from thought leaders in the field enriches the board’s perspective on the evolving AI landscape.

Reviewing Costs and Benefits

Boards engaging in comprehensive discussions with management are better equipped to understand the overall benefits and costs associated with AI adoption.


  • Operational Efficiency: AI can significantly enhance operational efficiency by automating routine tasks, reducing errors, and improving productivity.
  • Innovation and Agility: AI serves as a catalyst for innovation, enabling companies to respond swiftly to market changes and capitalise on emerging opportunities.
  • Customer Experience: Implementing AI in customer interactions leads to personalised experiences, predictive analytics, and improved customer satisfaction.
  • Competitive Advantage: Companies strategically leveraging AI may gain a competitive edge by differentiating themselves through innovative products and services.


  • Employee Training: Training existing employees or hiring new talent with AI skills involves costs related to education programs and potential productivity loss during the learning curve.
  • Implementation Costs: Integrating AI systems into existing infrastructure requires significant upfront investment in technology, software, and hardware.
  • Ethical Considerations: Addressing ethical concerns related to AI, such as bias and privacy issues, may require additional resources to ensure responsible AI use.

Balancing Costs and Benefits

Boards working with management should conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis of AI adoption. This analysis, considering both short-term and long-term implications, allows boards to track the success and return on investment of AI implementations. Establishing key performance indicators related to the financial impact of AI initiatives helps boards make informed decisions.

Creating incentive structures that encourage employees to adapt to AI technologies fosters a culture of continuous learning and innovation. This approach aligns with the company’s long-term vision for AI adoption and minimises potential resistance from employees.

Implementing a Governance Model

An effective governance model is paramount in ensuring accountability and responsible use of AI. Boards working with management should determine clear ownership of AI governance within the organisation.

Ownership and Accountability

  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities for AI governance within the organisation, identifying who owns the overall responsibility for AI initiatives.
  • Establish cross-functional teams involving IT, legal, compliance, and business units to collaboratively oversee different aspects of AI governance.

Ethical Framework

  • Develop and articulate an ethical framework that guides the responsible use of AI, aligning with the company’s values and ethical principles.
  • Regularly review and update the ethical framework in response to evolving ethical standards and societal expectations.

Risk Management

  • Conduct comprehensive risk assessments specific to AI implementations, identifying potential risks related to data security, algorithmic bias, legal compliance, and reputational damage.
  • Implement robust risk management strategies, including continuous monitoring, scenario planning, and mitigation measures.

Transparency and Accountability

  • Prioritise transparency in AI decision-making processes, ensuring that algorithms and models are explainable and understandable by relevant stakeholders.
  • Establish mechanisms for accountability, allowing for the investigation and resolution of issues arising from AI system outputs.

Stakeholder Engagement

  • Actively engage with stakeholders, including customers, employees, and investors, to gather input on AI initiatives.
  • Communicate the company’s commitment to responsible AI use transparently to external stakeholders through reports, disclosures, and regular updates.

AI and Generative AI represent a transformative force shaping the business landscape. While providing opportunities for innovation and growth, these technologies come with risks, considerations of cost and benefit, and evolving regulatory requirements. Boards play a crucial role in navigating this complex landscape, ensuring responsible AI use, and building trust among stakeholders.

As technology continues to drive corporate evolution, boards that proactively embrace AI and Generative AI considerations position their organisations to thrive in the dynamic and competitive landscape of the future. Through strategic oversight, comprehensive education, and transparent communication, boards can lead their companies towards responsible and impactful AI adoption. The journey into the realm of AI is not just a technological evolution but a strategic imperative that demands thoughtful governance, ethical considerations, and a commitment to shaping a future where AI contributes positively to both corporate success and societal well-being.