CXOs view artificial intelligence (AI) as the next big bet for business growth: Nearly one-quarter of C-level professionals said they believe AI will have the largest positive impact on their organization’s progress in the next five years, according to a recent EY report. Some 23% also said machine learning would have a significant impact on business growth.

The report surveyed 500 US CXOs about their feelings towards innovation, future technology opportunities, and struggles with innovative initiatives. While half of C-level executives said their companies spend more than 5% of their budget on innovation initiatives, 42% cited budget limitations as the biggest obstacle for deployment, the report found.

SEE: IT leader’s guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

Other external obstacles cited included market volatility and fears that competitors will outpace their companies in innovative solutions, the report said. Despite the concerns, 75% of CXOs said their organization exceeded expectations on innovation initiatives when compared to competitors, the report added.

The responsibility to spearhead innovation initiatives ultimately falls on CXOs, the report said. CXOs must foster a company culture focused on supporting innovation, rather than stifling it. Business leaders can do so by providing incentives for innovative accomplishments (44%), supporting external trainings (43%), and hosting innovation-focused events (42%), the report found. Some 12% of respondents credit mentorship programs as key drivers for innovation in their organizations.

“Becoming champions for mentorship – and having an open mind to all the forms such programs can take – will help senior leaders unlock the full potential of innovation within their organizations,” said Michael J. Inserra, EY Americas senior vice chair and deputy managing partner, in a press release. “An effective program will forge connections across all levels of talent, create a safe space where everyone can learn from each other, take risks, fail forward and learn fast. Reverse mentoring, which creates an opportunity for junior people to offer key insights to senior leaders, can bring significant reward to leaders who are willing to foster these relationships.”

For tips on how to integrate AI into your business, check out this TechRepublic article.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Nearly one-quarter of CXOs believe AI will have the biggest positive impact on their organization in the next five years. — EY, 2019
  • CXOs can foster an innovative culture through incentive programs, trainings, innovation-focused events, and mentorship. — EY, 2019