BY Fast Company 4 MINUTE READ

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost an entire year since the launch of ChatGPT. With a full trip around the sun behind us, it’s the perfect time to take stock of what we’ve learned from year one of this new era for artificial intelligence—and what it means for business as we navigate the seasons ahead.

Looking back, an old Greek myth comes to mind about travelers needing to sail between two perils. On one side loomed the many-headed monster Scylla, and on the other, a snarling whirlpool named Charybdis. Figuring out how to use AI for business impact has been similar this past year, with the jaws of multiple “AI vendors” saying anything they can to snatch up our dollars while a never-ending vortex of contradictory scary headlines threatened to pull us down into confusion and stagnation.

And so, a lot of the initial noise around ChatGPT and the possibilities of AI for business proved to be just that: distracting and frustrating noise. In fact, a Salesforce survey of IT leaders found that 1-in-3 believed AI was “overhyped”—and that was six months ago. I’m willing to bet that number has gone way up.

But after a year of hard work helping businesses use AI in ways that actually drive outcomes, I think there’s a way through the AI Scylla and Charybdis—one that not only lets you come through unscathed but also helps you build momentum to do even greater things. That is, it’s possible to build an AI flywheel to propel your business past the perils and toward the promised land of better business outcomes.


Every journey has a destination, and putting the time and energy into building an AI flywheel should be no different. Over the past year, it’s become clear that there are a few main areas where AI and automation can make the most impact, especially in terms of better connecting businesses and their customers.

First, AI can empower your people. A year into this new era, we now have the means to equip our employees with AI tools that meaningfully amplify their capabilities. Second, AI can support your business’s shift to digital-first experiences. That’s what customers want, and AI facilitates it by making it possible to scale up digital engagement with bots that speak to them via speech or text. And finally, AI can help you truly embrace automation. This is not just about saving money. Automation shouldn’t be implemented to cut corners, but to make your customers’ lives easier. It should empower your customers to self-serve when and where they want, and free up your people to work on complex, personalized interactions where the human touch is indispensable.


With these goals in mind, how can an AI flywheel actually help you build the momentum you need to move past the hype? I like to think of this flywheel, which can be adapted to any business, as having four key stages, each propelling the next forward. Here’s a summary of this strategic approach to harnessing the capabilities of AI:

Step 1: Understand what your customers want

Look at your existing data to uncover patterns and pain points that can be addressed through AI and automation. Gaining this understanding will serve as the foundation for an AI strategy that genuinely resonates with your customer base. It’s like having a compass pointing you towards your customers’ needs.

Step 2: Begin to shift from legacy tools and channels to AI-driven platforms

Now that you have a sense of where you can make an early impact, it’s time to start shifting your operations so your customers can see the benefits. For example, 60% of consumers say they’d skip their morning coffee if they could avoid being on hold. You can give them the option to easily transition from phone calls into messaging with a bot instead. If you apply this kind of automation to any customer pain point with your company, you’ll begin to make an impact on how they experience your brand.

Step 3: Automate in areas that help your customers quickly self-serve

As you begin to alleviate customer pain points, you’ll find that there are many areas where AI can help solve them without any human assistance. Let’s be clear: Automation isn’t about replacing humans, it’s about liberating them to focus on the things that matter most. There are tons of routine tasks that AI can handle without compromising the customer experience, like answering FAQs, providing shipping updates, or even providing personalized product recommendations. Wherever your customers can self-serve, you’ll find an opportunity for AI and automation.

Step 4: Give your team AI tools that boost their output

Even in areas that aren’t self-serve and instead require the human touch, AI can play a role. For example, it’s now quite simple for AI tools to auto-generate summaries of your company’s history with a specific customer, or even language that may help solve their problems. Having a team of AI copilots on your side empowers your people to help more customers more quickly—and take on more important duties.

It’s important to remember that the power of any flywheel emerges from the ongoing cycle. Successes and failures coming out of your team’s experience with AI tools (step 4) will help you get an improved understanding of what your customers want (step 1), meaning you can expect to achieve even better outcomes over time as the flywheel picks up momentum and velocity.


Just as the ancient heroes ultimately charted a course through the dangers of Scylla and Charybdis, anyone who applies the lessons of the past year can sail on to smoother waters. And those who do the work of building an AI flywheel to boost their momentum will get there ahead of the pack.

The path forward is based on using AI to understand your customers, make better connections with them, automate what you can, and boost the output of your people. While those mythical beasts I referenced aren’t real, the people who will be affected by our AI projects are. AI isn’t just about algorithms, code, and cutting costs—it’s about building experiences that propel our businesses forward by creating more humanized experiences that make our customers happy to join our journeys.

Ruth Zive is chief marketing officer at LivePerson and host of the Generation AI podcast.