Embracing AI for competitive advantage

2 February 2024

Since the start of the decade, business leaders have been adapting to operate in oscillating market conditions, shifting from favourable to perturbed in a matter of weeks. Geopolitical risk, resource costs, inflation, rising interest rates, and cyber security have proven to be interdependent and reciprocally damaging. However, they have also shaped a new generation of resilient, agile, and innovative leaders.


Technology has been a core theme of the ongoing transformations, bringing a new degree of efficiency, cost-savings, and modernisation to business models, products, and services.  68% of leaders believe that emerging technologies (including AI) are key to driving innovation, creativity and productivity in the business in this decade. 

Artificial intelligence appears to be the next tenet to define the new era of economic competitiveness: 65% ranked AI as the most important technology for their business over the next 5 years. However, the adoption levels are largely uneven. The majority of leaders (37%) are still learning about the potential, impact, and implications of AI adoption, while 18% are optimising different aspects of their strategy and 7% leading across all areas. 

The 2024 HLB Survey of Business Leaders explores how business leaders use innovative technologies to gain a competitive edge. Through  979 survey responses from 52 countries and six in-depth interviews with subject matter experts, we examine the leaders’ attitudes towards AI, their current position on the AI maturity curve, and strategic priorities for the next year.

Business confidence is on the rise

Business leaders have been tested with a ‘conveyor belt’ of crises. This year, over half of business leaders are concerned with 12 risk factors, up from just 5 in 2020. Ongoing disruption, however, also proved to be a launchpad for innovation. Strategic investments have been made in operational efficiency, business model transformations, and technology-driven innovation.

This year we’re seeing the highest levels of confidence, 85%,  in business growth since the start of the decade, and a more optimistic outlook toward global economic growth:  41% expect an increase compared to just 27% in 2023. Concerns around inflation, geopolitical risks, and resource costs have cooled off. Yet leaders face new challenges: an expanding cybersecurity radar, more acute climate risks, and flash growth in disruptive technologies.

Download the full report.

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