Disruptors vs. Disrupted: Differentiation through Generative AI

This research communicates a critical lesson: while business leaders have grand plans to leverage emerging technology to unsettle competitors, they risk falling prey to various underestimated challenges.

Business executives are anticipating major industry disruption propelled by generative AI. In general, 60% of respondents concur that “generative AI technology will significantly disturb our industry within the next five years.” The majority of respondents do not envision such AI-driven disruption as a threat but as an opportunity to themselves become the disruptors. Rather than viewing it through the lens of risk, generative AI is considered a competitive advantage by 78% of the surveyed executives, with a mere 8% regarding it as a potential menace.

Yet, despite these expectations, only a handful of companies had progressed beyond experimental or limited application of generative AI as of 2023. While 76% of the surveyed companies had interacted with generative AI in some form in 2023, widespread adoption of the technology remained limited at 9%. The technology was mainly restricted to experimentation or utilization in one or a few areas on a small scale.

Companies have ambitious plans to augment adoption of generative AI in 2024, intending to deploy it over twice as many functions as before. Key areas for deploying this technology include improving customer experience, strategic analysis, and product innovation.

However, to realize these ambitions, companies need to address existing IT inadequacies to avoid falling behind in the deployment of generative AI and leaving themselves vulnerable to disruption. Less than 30% of executives feel their firm’s IT capabilities are conducive to the swift adoption of generative AI.

Non-IT factors, such as regulatory risk, budget constraints, a competitive environment, company culture, and skill availability, also present obstacles to widespread generative AI usage. As such, the anticipated wave of disruption from generative AI might not go according to executives’ expectations due to overlooked challenges within their own organizations. This content was created by Insights, not the MIT Technology Review’s editorial team.