Harnessing AI’s Potential: Leveraging its Strategic Advantages for Businesses

West Michigan businesses can adopt a human-centered approach to leverage AI effectively and gain a competitive edge, according to insights shared by an expert with local business leaders on Tuesday.

During the Grand Rapids Chamber CEO Summit, Chip LaFleur, CEO of LaFleur Marketing, highlighted several strategies for businesses to harness AI. LaFleur emphasized that while AI tools are accessible to all businesses, achieving a competitive advantage hinges on effective implementation.

“Organizations that prioritize structuring their data in a manner that AI systems can parse and utilize will gain a significant competitive edge,” LaFleur explained in an interview with News 8 ahead of his presentation. “While tools like ChatGPT and Copilot are beneficial, building robust Microsoft and Azure systems that can support future AI iterations to analyze data and derive insights will be crucial for the next stage of competitive advantage.”

He cautioned businesses to prioritize secure, enterprise-level AI tools and adopt closed AI models with clear data protection policies. LaFleur also emphasized the importance of combining human skills such as creative problem-solving, empathy, and moral judgment with AI capabilities such as data analysis, forecasting, and automation.

Describing AI as an “assistant that’s maybe a little bit of a psychopath,” LaFleur underscored its lack of emotion and human feeling but emphasized its capability to execute tasks as directed. He stressed the responsibility of businesses to incorporate the human element in AI utilization to support their workforce.

“AIs can assist in strategic decision-making, crafting compelling narratives, and analyzing client feedback,” LaFleur noted. “Businesses can also employ custom AI models for compliance audits, leveraging AI trained on industry regulations to detect potential violations in marketing and client communications.”

While acknowledging AI’s conversational capabilities, LaFleur highlighted its role in helping leaders prepare for interactions with employees.

“AI enables leaders to simulate and practice difficult conversations,” he told News 8. “By engaging with AI, leaders can anticipate responses and gain insights that enhance empathy in actual interactions.”

Rick Baker, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that while some members are already integrating AI into their operations, there remains much to explore about its potential.

“We’re still in the early stages of understanding AI’s capabilities,” Baker said. “There’s a genuine interest among our members to learn from experts like Chip about venturing into this evolving space.”

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