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To Be a Responsible AI Leader, Focus on Being Responsible Posted on : Sep 20 - 2022

New research shows that although leaders agree that responsible AI should be a top management concern, few have prioritized such initiatives. As AI failures expose companies and their customers to risks, and regulatory attention grows, evidence points to the value of cultivating RAI policies even before an AI system rollout.

As AI’s adoption grows more widespread and companies see increasing returns on their AI investments, the technology’s risks also become more apparent.1 Our recent global survey of more than 1,000 managers suggests that AI systems across industries are susceptible to failures, with nearly a quarter of respondents reporting that their organization has experienced an AI failure, ranging from mere lapses in technical performance to outcomes that put individuals and communities at risk. It is these latter harms that responsible AI (RAI) initiatives seek to address.

The research and analysis for this report was conducted under the direction of the authors as part of an MIT Sloan Management Review research initiative in collaboration with and sponsored by Boston Consulting Group.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are developing the first generation of meaningful AI-specific legislation.2 For example, the European Union’s proposed AI Act would create a comprehensive scheme to govern the technology. And in the U.S., lawmakers in New York, California, and other states are working on AI-specific regulations to govern its use in employment and other high-risk contexts.3 In response to the heightened stakes around AI adoption and impending regulations, organizations worldwide are affirming the need for RAI, but many are falling short when it comes to operationalizing RAI in practice.

There are, however, exceptions. A number of organizations are bridging the gap between aspirations and reality by making a philosophical and material commitment to RAI, including investing the time and resources needed to create a comprehensive RAI program. We refer to them as RAI Leaders or Leaders. They appear to enjoy clear business benefits from RAI. Our research indicates that Leaders take a more strategic approach to RAI, led by corporate values and an expansive view of their responsibility toward a wide array of stakeholders, including society as a whole. For Leaders, prioritizing RAI is inherently aligned with their broader interest in leading responsible organizations.

This MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group report is based on our global survey, interviews with several C-level executives, and insights gathered from an international panel of more than 25 AI experts. (For more details on our methodology, including how the research team surveyed Africa and China, see “About the Research.”) It provides a high-level road map for organizations seeking to enhance their RAI efforts or become RAI Leaders. Though negotiating AI-related challenges and regulations can be daunting, the good news is that a focus on general corporate responsibility goes a long way toward achieving RAI maturity. View more