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Fully 71% of C-suite executives around the world believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will be a game-changer for economic growth and competitiveness, according to a report from A.T. Kearney [pdf]. That type of optimism surrounding emerging technologies is apparently quite pervasive, according to separate results from the study.

Asked to identify their top-3 external environment opportunities from a list of 10, one-third (33%) of respondents pointed to positive technological disruption in their industry. That was the second-ranked opportunity (up from being 4th-ranked in the previous 2 years), slightly behind only low cost and/or high availability of capital, cited by 34% of respondents.

Presented with the same list but as challenges rather than opportunities, only one-quarter (24%) of the C-suite executives surveyed cited negative technological disruption in their industry as a top-3 challenge. That was 9th on the list of 10 challenges, indicating that this is firmly seen as more of an opportunity than challenge. That may be due to technological disruption no longer being seen as only the domain of digital giants: an IBM C-suite study released earlier this year found respondents more likely to see disruption coming from existing industry incumbents than from large digital-native companies.

Although C-suite executives responding to A.T. Kearney’s survey see technological disruption as more opportunity than threat, they’re less sure about changes in consumer preferences. Favorable changes in consumer preferences ranked as the 6th-best external opportunity, but unfavorable changes were also ranked the 6th-largest external challenge. No wonder CEOs are still trying to figure out Millennials’ needs and preferences

Meanwhile, 41% of executives believe that they’ll be well-positioned to respond or adapt to disruptive technology in the coming year, including 51% of respondents in Asia. However, their optimism doesn’t necessarily extend to adoption of those technologies.

It’s true that the successful adoption of new technologies is the top-ranked operational environment opportunity. However, difficulty in adopting new technologies is also the second-ranked operational challenge for businesses, suggesting that they do have concerns about how they’ll manage the disruptive technologies they see coming. Indeed, the adoption of new technologies is the only operational area that is both a top opportunity and a top challenge.

As such, marketers able to successfully integrate new technologies for their function – an area of growing importance – will certainly curry favor with upper management.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 400 senior executives from the world’s leading corporations. Half are CEOs (one-third) or board members (17%), and the remaining half are other C-level executives.

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