To Be a Responsible AI Leader, Focus on Being Responsible

Findings from the 2022 Responsible AI Global Executive Study and Research Project

by: Sumair Sayed

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.


We thank each of the following individuals, who were interviewed for this report: Kathy Baxter, principal architect, ethical AI practice, Salesforce Linda Leopold, head of responsible AI and data, H&M Group Katia Walsh, chief global strategy and AI officer, Levi Strauss & Co. Brian Yutko, vice president and chief engineer, sustainability and future mobility, Boeing

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