A massive 62% of CEOs selected growth as their top business priority in 2024, according to a new survey by Gartner. This is the highest level since 2014, and an increase from last year’s survey where 49% of CEOs said their top business priority was growth.

“Along with the increased focus on growth, the survey showed a relatively weak position for cost management, suggesting that most CEOs and senior business executives believe the most challenging economic times are past,” says David Furlonger, distinguished vice-president analyst and Gartner Fellow. “We have entered a phase of rising business leader confidence and business strategy re-launches.”

The 2024 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey was conducted from July through December 2023 among 416 CEOs and other senior business executives in North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and South Africa, across different industries, revenue and company sizes. The survey found that CEOs are entertaining a growth mindset in their current environment.

When asked about digital transformation, 34% of CEOs identified AI as the top theme of the next business transformation after digital, followed by operations efficiency at 9%.

“‘AI’ is displacing ‘digital’ as the keyword CEOs mention the most, due in no small part to generative AI (GenAI),” says Don Scheibenreif, distinguished vice-president analyst at Gartner. “The majority of CEOs surveyed believe that the AI breakthroughs of 2023 justified the tech sector hype. They are relying on CIOs, CTOs or CDOs to unlock the value of GenAI, showing that this is a team effort when approaching these projects and not just a top-down experience. ”

CEOs are not deterred by any negative prospects around AI, as 87% of CEOs agreed that the benefits of AI to their business outweigh its risks. Another 90% of CEOs agreed the idea that AI is an existential threat to humanity is hype and exaggeration.

However, CEOs are not approaching AI with an entirely positive outlook. Fifty-six percent of CEOs said disinformation, misinformation and deep fakes will create operating problems. Twenty-nine percent see constrained electricity supply and 53% see general supply chain issues as a problem, in large part due to GenAI and the demand the technology creates.

“CEOs should tolerate low-cost GenAI projects,” says Scheibenreif. “But they should avoid the temptation to try and control GenAI’s use from the center. The excitement and energy will be almost impossible to handle.

“CEOs must let the hype cycle do its work for them. The trough of disillusionment in GenAI will arrive soon enough – probably before the end of 2024. CEOs should clamp down only on experiments that they believe are dangerous for the company’s reputation and allow the herd to police itself this time.”