U.S. CEOs are more positive about the economic outlook for the next three years than all CEOs in the global survey. They are, however, cognizant of the potential threats to globalization that may hamper their growth outlooks. A majority (81 percent) plan to pursue inorganic growth, favoring strategic alliances and M&A.
Fewer CEOs than last year (73 percent compared with 86 percent in 2018) claim that rather than waiting to be disrupted by competitors, their organizations are actively disrupting the sectors in which they operate. At the same time, 76 percent agree that their growth relies on their ability to challenge and disrupt any business norm.
Agility has emerged as a critical capability. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. CEOs believe that it is a do-or-die for business—that being too slow can lead to obsolescence. Agility requires maturity in innovation processes: Sixty-three percent agree that over the next three years they need to improve their innovation processes and execution.
Technology is a big part of today’s CEOs’ agendas, with 89 percent feeling personally responsible for leading technology strategies in their organizations. Artificial intelligence (AI) has an impact on the organization and on CEOs’ decision making. CEOs have become more realistic about the scope, timeframes and returns on AI implementation, but at the same time are becoming more enthusiastic about AI-driven decisions.
U.S. CEOs view cyber risk very much as part of technology risk. In fact, 44 percent of those who consider emerging or disruptive technologies as the greatest threat to their organization’s growth classify cyber security risk as its cause. Another 16 percent point to cyber security risk itself as their organization’s top threat. This helps align cyber with enterprise risk, which is a good sign given that fewer U.S. CEOs feel prepared for a cyberattack.
Talent and technology are both key to growth, and in the times of the Fourth Industrial Revolution there can be a push and pull between investing in one or the other. When asked to make a point-blank choice between investing in technology or people, more than two-thirds of executives chose technology. But that does not mean that CEOs are neglecting their workforces. Modernizing the workforce is the top strategy to help ensure that organizations are future-ready (35 percent).
Seventy-seven percent of U.S. CEOs believe that they could further improve their understanding of their customers. That understanding also involves customer values, as 81 percent feel it is their personal responsibility to ensure that their organization’s ESG policies reflect the values of their customers.