It’s actually the other way around.

My professional engagements lead me to interact with individuals deeply involved in data, AI and innovation.

In 2022, while in Los Angeles, I was introduced to a senior executive who, shortly after saying their name, shared their role at that major entertainment company: chief metaverse officer. There was a moment of silence. Although silence can sometimes serve a purpose in my job, an extended silence does not. I didn’t really know how to react to a role I could have never imagined existed in the first place. Yesterday, I checked this person’s job title again and discovered a change. Guess what? Goodbye metaverse, and welcome … AI.

We’re early in 2024 and the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI (GenAI) technologies into every facet of business operations has already become not just advantageous, but imperative. This seismic shift has given rise to the need for an expanded scope for chief data officers, and potentially a whole new role: the chief AI officer (CAIO). While this title may sound trendy, its significance will likely endure.

Do organizations really need a chief AI officer?

Given the overarching impact of AI across all company domains, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the most suitable candidate for this position may already be at the helm of the organization—the CEO.

The rationale behind proposing the CEO as the de facto CAIO lies in the unique position the CEO holds. This position affords a holistic view and an unmatched capacity to drive integration and transformation throughout the entire company. AI and GenAI are not merely technological upgrades; they are transformative forces that demand a top-down approach to reimagining work processes, decision-making and innovation strategies. In this new era, every job within the company can be augmented by AI. This fact demands a leader who can envision and implement a cohesive, company-wide strategy.

‘You can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.’

Why should the CEO be the CAIO? Firstly, the CEO has the ultimate authority and visibility to align AI initiatives with the company’s strategic goals. This alignment ensures that AI technologies are integrated throughout all business functions, from marketing and sales to operations and human resources, rather than being confined to IT or data departments. As AI and GenAI technologies promise to enhance productivity, creativity and decision-making at every level, the CEO is best positioned to oversee this integration, ensuring that AI initiatives are not just technically successful but also strategically advantageous.

Secondly, the CEO as CAIO can cultivate a culture of innovation and agility that is essential for the successful adoption of AI technologies. For AI to genuinely transform an organization, it requires not just technological investment but also a shift in mindset at all levels. By leading by example, challenging conventional practices and fostering an environment where all employees feel empowered to propose innovative solutions, the CEO can endorse a culture of innovation from the top down that unlocks budgets for AI-driven projects and encourages contributions from all team members.

Consider my own experience at Artefact. I’ve consistently challenged my team to reassess their workflows and embrace new technologies. I’ve researched and tested new tools and sent “surprise” subscriptions to some of my team members on Duet AI, Microsoft Copilot,, Notta and more to ask them to try the tools with me. By questioning the status quo, allocating budgets for pilot projects and empowering team members to propose innovative solutions, we’ve harnessed AI and GenAI tools to improve efficiency and drive innovation. And guess what? My own CEO, the founder of the company, has done the same.

Moreover, the CEO’s role as the CAIO underscores the importance of ethical considerations and responsible AI use. Amid concerns around data privacy, AI algorithm biases and automation’s impact on the workforce, the CEO can ensure that AI initiatives are developed and implemented with a robust ethical framework to balance innovation with responsibility.

CEOs: the time to embrace the AI revolution is now.

The rapid advancements in AI and GenAI present a unique opportunity for CEOs to assume the role of CAIO, leveraging their comprehensive oversight, strategic vision and leadership capabilities to drive AI integration across the company. By doing so, CEOs can ensure that AI technologies are not only adopted but also align with the company’s strategic objectives, cultural values and ethical standards, thereby helping to secure a competitive edge in the digital age. As Fortune 500 C-suites continue to explore the possibilities of AI and GenAI, I believe this is only the beginning.

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