Press Release

Buckle up CEOs: A New Age of Long-Term Disruptions is on the Horizon

January 9, 2024
  • AlixPartners’ 5th Annual Disruption Index finds that nearly 60% of CEOs worry about losing their job, with acute disruptive forces--geopolitics, climate change, and technological innovation--cited as top concerns.
  • CEOs are still in the hot seat, but those who embrace the challenge and opportunity, act quickly and decisively will be the winners, according to the survey.
  • Notably, two-thirds of global CEOs in our survey are worried about the impact that the 2024 US election will have on their business.

NEW YORK (January 9, 2024) – Business leaders are getting better at managing disruption after more than three years of pandemic, supply chain instability, worker shortages, and inflation, but newly emerging factors outside of executives’ control are setting the agenda in the New Year, according to findings from global consulting firm AlixPartners’ Disruption Index (ADI). The annual survey canvasses more than 3,000 CEOs and senior executives around the world to uncover the latest global business concerns.

A new age of disruptions is poised to rise in 2024

While the pandemic era challenges of supply chain instability, worker shortages, and inflation are mostly in the rear-view mirror, business leaders continue to express uncertainty about the future and are increasingly worried about intensifying issues that are beyond their control. Geopolitical events, including the tragic wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the combustible 2024 US Presidential election, and ongoing friction with China, are causing them to adjust their strategy. New technologies, in particular Generative AI, are their biggest disruptive opportunity over the next year, but at the same time a majority of CEOs say their company can’t keep up with pace of technological change. Most business leaders feel pressure to take a stance on environmental issues from government and regulators, their investors and board, their customers, and their employees and team members. More than a third of business leaders say their company has been impacted by environmental concerns. Interest rate and the inflationary uncertainty continue to be a concern, and one-third still see the potential for recession on the horizon.

“CEOs largely navigated 2023’s bumpy road of disruptions successfully, but the way forward looks to be every bit as rugged and with more hidden curves, demanding even greater agility, acceleration, and speed. We are entering a new age of post-pandemic, longer term, and less controllable disruptive forces. Although our survey suggests that an increasing number of leaders are feeling more confident in their ability to manage disruption, there’s no room for complacency,” said Simon Freakley, CEO of AlixPartners. “Those who succeed will be the ones who act quickly and decisively in the face of external challenges and at the same time execute brilliantly on the factors under their direct control. The winners will be those who can harness external challenge for internal benefit, in particular by unlocking the force multiplier effect afforded by AI.”

CEOs are still in the hot seat, but those who take the wheel will be in the driver’s seat in 2024

Anxiety remains prevalent among CEOs, with nearly 60% say they are worried about losing their job due to disruption. Nearly all CEOs anticipate needing to overhaul their business models in the next year due to disruptive forces, and about one in three CEOs identify AI as the most important digital issue to address in 2024—more so than any other technology. However, those leaders who say they’re leading their industry in growth and profit are much more likely to be driving disruption than reacting to it. They are much more likely to be investing more in technology and data. New technologies, in particular Generative AI, are the biggest disruptive opportunity over the next year identified by 68% of executives in the survey.

“Gen AI is both exciting and daunting for leaders and society at large,” noted Freakley. “What is clear is that the prospects for business are significant and will result in massive productivity gains as well as brand new vectors for revenue growth, value creation, and reskilling at those organizations who best recognize and act upon the opportunity.”

Notes to Editors (All data is sourced from the 2024 AlixPartners Disruption Index survey)

 

In this new age of disruption, top areas of concern include:

  • Geopolitical tensions: 66% of CEOs say they worry about the impact of the 2024 US presidential election on their company, and 68% of CEOs report that US-China tensions are causing them to adjust their strategy.
  • Tech Innovation: New technologies, in particular Generative AI, are the biggest disruptive opportunity over the next year identified by 68% of executives, but at the same time 63% of CEOs say their company can’t keep up with rate of technological change.
  • Climate change and the transition to clean energy: Most business leaders feel pressure to take a stance on environmental issues from government and regulators (68%), their investors and board (64%), their customers (58%), and their employees and team members (57%). 37% of business leaders say their company has been impacted by environmental concerns.
  • Macroeconomic environment: 41% of executives surveyed report instability in interest rates and the inflationary environment to be a threat, and one-third still see the potential for recession on the horizon.

What’s keeping CEOs up at night:

  • Nearly 60% of CEOs surveyed worry about losing their job.
  • Approximately 30% of CEOs say they are more anxious in their role than a year ago—and only 15% say they are less anxious.
  • Almost two out of three CEOs report a high level of disruption for their company over the past year (65%).
  • Nearly all CEOs (91%) anticipate needing to overhaul their business models in the next year due to disruptive forces.
  • Nearly 80% of CEOs report feeling pressure to take a stance on environmental and social issues from employees, customers, and investors/boards, as well as from regulators.
  • Nearly one in three CEOs identify AI as the most important digital issue to address in 2024—more so than any other technology.

But those in the driver’s seat are taking action

Just 8% of the companies we surveyed say they lead their industry in growth and profit. Here’s what these business leaders say differentiates them from the rest:

  • They are more disrupted overall and much more likely to drive disruption (74%) than react to it (20%).
  • 63% expect their business models will change significantly in the next year, and 18% expect to see a total business model change in the next year (over 4x the average).
  • They are much more likely to be investing more in technology and data: over half say they are fully exploiting the advantages data gives them in sales, customer experience, operations, and supply chain.
  • 95% say their workforces fully understand and support their company’s digital tech objectives.

Large gaps remain in generative AI adoption

  • Executives in our survey identified new technologies as the largest disruptive opportunity for their companies, specifically highlighting AI as the most important digital advancement to address in the next 12 months.
  • 30% of business leaders say AI is the most important technology for their company to address in the next 12 months. However, additional survey findings found that they are not yet taking full advantage of this opportunity.
  • While 59% of executives are currently investing in generative AI, only 28% report that it is fully embedded across their organizations and workflows.
  • Many also note that they are still grappling with concerns around AI, including lack of human touch, ethical considerations, legal and regulatory compliance, and a lack of accuracy and reliability.

The 2024 AlixPartners Disruption Index Report is available via this link

 

About AlixPartners

AlixPartners is a results-driven global consulting firm that specializes in helping businesses successfully address their most complex and critical challenges. Our clients include companies, corporate boards, law firms, investment banks, private equity firms, and others. Founded in 1981, AlixPartners is headquartered in New York and has offices in more than 20 cities around the world. For more information, visit www.alixpartners.com.

 

Meet the Author

For more information, contact:

Ed Canaday

Ed Canaday

Director, New York