Deciphering AI: From “Scary” to “Aha”


If you’re overwhelmed by all the hype and fear-mongering about AI and undereducated about how to use this evolving technology best, welcome to my world. The Business Leaders Breakfast Forum presentation “AI Mastery for Business” was eye-opening, so I wanted to share major takeaways that will help you appreciate AI’s potential from a more knowledgeable business perspective.

Last month, The Business Leaders Breakfast Forum (BLBF) learning series I helped create in 2009 came roaring back to life after the pandemic shut it down in 2020. BLBF 2.0 is designed to help mid-market companies learn, connect, and create community outside of their organizations with a focus on presenting:

  • Real content you can use
  • Engaging participants to be part of the learning experience
  • Motivating participants beyond their comfort zone to help them
    discover new abilities

Our inaugural 2.0 program, “AI Mastery for Business” with Sam Richter and Victor Antonio, helped attendees move from “AI is scary” to “AI is relevant and advantageous”. This duo’s compelling, eye-opening content focused on how to prepare for a future with AI, how it will impact organizations, and the formidable competitive advantage AI delivers.
If you know me and that my business stands for making people who matter feel like they matter, you might wonder why I chose a technology-based program rather than one about the interaction of people.

Understanding AI’s potential
In preparation for this program, I had several meetings with Sam to get my arms around AI. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in business is that to stay ahead of the curve, you need to understand innovation and make informed decisions about how, when, and whether to incorporate a particular innovation into your work. In one of our meetings, I had an aha moment and could see clearly how automating repetitive tasks with AI would free up human time to create more space for interactions only humans can have—opportunities to work together on higher-value work that generates greater results.

Sam and Victor brought AI to life, energizing attendees to confidently take action. They defined the difference between AI and generative AI, how it works, how to leverage it, its importance, ethical considerations, risks, implementation tactics, and progress tracking. If you weren’t able to attend the program, here are highlights to help you consider how using AI would open more time for human interaction and authentic connectivity.

5 Key Takeaways to Understand

Explaining AI and Generative AI
AI and generative AI are related, yet different from each other.

Overall, AI is an evolving technology that works to simulate human intelligence. AI can help create efficiencies and minimize errors by reducing manual work in repetitive tasks. Examples include spam filters, data modeling, and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa.

Generative AI is an emerging and rapidly evolving subset of AI. It simulates human intelligence, enabling users to create content, images, audio, code, and more.

Leveraging AI in Business
AI can support business growth through:

  • Automating routine processes, minimizing errors, and increasing efficiencies
  • Predicting—After an AI model learns the patterns and relationships in the data, it can make accurate predictions or decisions.
  • Personalizing—AI-driven customer segmentation can help you personalize customer communication and service offerings based on preferences, which improves engagement, customer experience, and retention.

Choosing an AI Assistant
An AI assistant is a technology partner that helps you create content, just like a human partner. Similar to humans, each technology partner has its own strengths. They are not created equal; it all depends on the task. Today there are many AI assistants, an evolving component of the technology.

Here’s a starter list of assistants and their best, specific use:

  • Chat GPT—context, creativity, conversation, editing
  • Gemini—searching the internet (a Google product)
  • Copilot—conversation, images, consumer web search (a Microsoft product)
  • Claude—analysis, editing, summarizing complex papers
  • Writesonic—marketing, creative ideas
  • Perplexity—research with accuracy and citations
  • Fathom—take meeting notes

Bonus—GPT stands for Generative Pre-training Transformer.

Engineering Successful Prompts
When using generative AI, creating a “prompt” (directive) that is meaningful to the outcome you are trying to achieve is critical to your success. And one size does not fit all. Developing different prompt personas for different types of activities is important. Change one or more of the inputs to your prompt elements based on what you are trying to achieve. Having multiple prompt personas based on what you are trying to achieve will provide the best results.

To create a meaningful prompt, organize these five key elements into a short statement:

  • Your goal
  • Your role and what do you care about
  • Your target audience
  • How the information you’re asking for should be formatted
  • Who will receive this information

Once you’ve developed your prompt, have a conversation with your assistant. Keep asking questions, be specific, add details, and ask for sources to be cited.

Evaluating Ethics and Risk
Along with the advancement AI introduces, it also stirs concerns over ethics and risks.

Organizations need to implement a robust governance framework, ensure data privacy, and prioritize ethical AI development that is aligned with company values and controls to detect and guard against unintended outcomes.

Organizations should proceed with caution and consider these risks: AI performance risks, potential biases in AI training data or algorithms, and potential for cyber intrusions to a company’s IT systems and network. To mitigate these risks, implement robust security measures and a continuous monitoring process.

The Future of AI
The world of AI is moving fast, and Sam and Victor acknowledged that in about 18 months, their presentation on this subject will be 100% different. There are more questions than answers: Will AI replace me? How will AI change the way we sell, market, and operate our company? How will AI change how buyers buy? And so much more.

Words of Thanks
I am grateful to the sponsors and marketing partners who stepped out and stepped up to bring business leaders together to learn, connect, and create community.

Sponsors: Minneapolis Regional Chamber, 3M Promotional Markets, Goldman Sachs 10KSB program, BMO, Alerus, BKBM, Ittrium, Minnesota Retailers Association, Minnesota Sales Institute, Omodt & Associates, Robert Half, Scale Bank, Skol Marketing, SRF Consulting.

Marketing partners: Brandpoint, Hopkins Business & Civic Association, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, National Speakers Association Minnesota, Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals.

Look for another BLBF program in the fall. Join us. Learn. Make new acquaintances that will become old friends through shared experiences.

If you have an interest in being involved, let’s start the conversation. Call 800-742-6800 or email today. Don’t miss our monthly newsletter for more information and tips for engaging stakeholders. Sign up at at the bottom right corner of the page.