AI & The Board: ‘Way Beyond ChatGPT’

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Four thoughts on how boards should—and should not—engage the hottest technology of the decade.

The most buzzed-about, talked-about technology of our time is generative AI, and that’s made it a top item for any and all board agendas in 2023–24. At our Boardroom Summit in New York this fall, Alissa Lynch, a board member at Pulmonx and a former executive at Johnson & Johnson and Google, and Florin Rotar, chief AI officer at Avanade, shared their thoughts on how best to analyze the opportunities and perils. 

“It’s way, way beyond ChatGPT being able to write a poem,” said Rotar, who devises AI-deployment strategies for the 60,000-employee joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture. “It is actually being used to transform functions… to change how drugs are being discovered, to change how people work.” Four takeaways:

Why is this a board issue?

Lynch recounted the story of a New Zealand supermarket that let shoppers input a list of ingredients into an app and have generative AI create recipes for them. Unfortunately, some shoppers put in their shopping list “and it created a recipe for chlorine gas, which is deadly.” Her point: The power and ubiquity of generative AI can quickly get away from companies that don’t think through the implications.

Where to focus? 

“Path to value is a really interesting topic because [AI] is close to being overhyped right now,” said Rotar. “Every single person, every single organization, whether or not they know anything about it, is deeming themselves to be an AI expert. There’s silly amounts of money being poured into this, and there are outsized and unrealistic expectations. What I see the good boards thinking about is, what is really the path to value? And why are we doing this in the first place?”

What to know? 

“You do need to learn about the technology and know enough about the risks as well as the opportunities,” said Lynch. “But how it works, I don’t think you, as a board member, necessarily need to get to that level. You probably need somebody in your organization who understands that very well. But I don’t think you need to know how it works more than how it can be applied, how it can build on your business strategy, and the opportunities as well as the risks.”

How to plan? 

“The other thing that I see boards—the best ones—do,” said Rotar, “is to think about this truly from a human perspective, where this is not just something that drives productivity or drives automation or changes how much time their people are spending on creating, collaborating or communicating, but they’re thinking about this as: ‘How do we uplift and enable every single one of our people, how do we enable them to become the best versions of themselves and learn new skills and realize their full potential?’ Boards that have that strategic mindset around the fundamental, life-changing opportunity that this gives all of their people… are doing the right thing.”

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