As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to expand and acquire more power, companies are taking advantage of how it allows them to optimize their efficiency and productivity. By analyzing large amounts of data and automating tasks, AI is helping improve customer service and operational efficiency across industries. However, it also comes with a series of risks, and therefore, I believe you, as a leader, have a great responsibility to be aware of them and manage them ethically.

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2024 once again showed companies as the most trusted institutions, ahead of NGOs, governments and the media. But despite the fact that companies also appeared at the forefront as those organizations most trusted to safely and accessibly introduce new technologies, they garnered only 59% in this metric, which is shy of the 60% threshold that the Barometer establishes as constituting “trust.” Respondents believe innovation is poorly managed with insufficient government regulation and a lack of trusted traditional leaders. They are overall suspicious about the independence of science from politics and money.

At the recent World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, which I had the privilege of attending, AI was one of the main topics. Under the motto “Rebuilding Trust,” experts agreed on a conscientious approach to its use and interaction with other technologies, as well as a commitment to putting people at the center. Although there is an optimistic and collaborative view regarding the possibilities offered by AI tools, its continued importance stresses the need to promote and regulate it under highly ethical standards.

Precisely the lack of regulation has led some companies to prefer limiting the use of AI or even prohibiting it, for fear that it will give way to hacking, confidential data leaks, misinformation, or replacement of critical thinking. The truth is that the potential of AI to transform industries will affect us sooner or later, and we will not be able to opt out—even if we want to.

Therefore, companies are called upon to take on these challenges to explain, optimize and make ethical use of AI. Here are some steps to do that.

1. Understand its use and scope.

Although AI’s competitive advantages for companies are diverse, it is important not to settle when considering its solutions. We must first understand its capabilities, limitations, and impacts. Consider the sector, size, and composition of your company as well as the effectiveness of the solution the various tools offer. Likewise, it must be established who should use it and how to effectively and safely maximize its potential.

2. Implement it correctly.

Solid corporate governance that takes charge of the cultural change that AI may cause is mindful of its evolutionary and unpredictable nature and puts ethics first as a fundamental pillar in its implementation. It’s not only the what that matters but also the how. Companies must establish a policy on AI’s use in their compliance programs and constantly monitor its efficacy.

3. Model responsible leadership.

The role of management teams is fundamental for understanding AI and its application in business strategy. Company leaders must be involved in these decisions, ensure its ethical and transparent implementation, communicate its advantages to workers and investors and certify that it is monitored and supervised to manage potential risks. Overall, transparency is vital to keep the trust of stakeholders.

4. Establish preventive controls.

A cybersecurity policy must be created that safeguards the use of AI. The related controls must be flexible to adapt to the changes brought about by this technology’s constant evolution. Like with implementation, their efficacy must be periodically measured and monitored to manage risks, which are also evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Make sure that boards are up to date on the development and implementation of AI so they can supervise controls, recognize risks and detect possible gaps to help correct them in time.

5. Communicate effectively.

Good corporate governance must also manifest in how your company integrates its outreach and dissemination efforts toward all its stakeholders. One of people’s biggest fears regarding AI is being replaced by it; therefore, your communication must be simple, transparent and devoid of technical terms that complicate workers’ understanding.

AI does not necessarily translate into replacing jobs, but it will requireadaptation and development of new technical skills. As noted in the Trust Barometer, when people feel they have control over how innovations affect them, they are more likely to accept rather than resist them.

6. Train and purposefully select your personnel.

As touched on in the last point, AI imposes new challenges regarding workers’ capabilities and expertise. To navigate this technological revolution, people will need to equip themselves with new essential skills. When considering new hires and promotions, look to those who demonstrate adaptability, curiosity, and open-mindedness. Other helpful traits include a willingness to combat misinformation, a commitment to continuous learning, critical thinking skills and ethical awareness.

Artificial intelligence is here to stay. This reality invites us to endeavor to better understand it in order to help address the fears that its rapid evolution and lack of regulation are stirring. And just as proposed at the Davos Forum, responses to today’s great challenges and the long-awaited rebuilding of trust will only be possible through public-private cooperation, in which all actors take part in the discussion. Companies have a big task ahead of them.

By Susana Sierra
Published in Forbes